1. State your problem as a question as succinctly as possible.
2. 'Brain dump': Write down what you already know about your topic, including
3. Decide what disciplinary methodologies you plan to use: e.g., sociology, political science, literature, psychology...
4. Fill in the gaps in your knowlege: get background information from specialized encyclopedias or other secondary sources. Wikipedia can sometimes be good here, or Google News.
5. Select the best places/ databases to find information on your topic from the Library's list of databases by subject. Or use a catalog like Oskicat or Melvyl to search for books and other resources.
6. Use nouns from your brain dump as search terms.
7. Evaluate what you find. Change search terms to get closer to what you really want.
8. Refine Your Search Words - Using the information you have gathered, determine if your research words should be narrower or broader. You may need to search basic resources again using your new, focused topics and keywords.
What sort of articles and data do you need to find for your paper? Scholarly, for sure, but there are many others:
It's helpful when doing your research to think about how you will use what you find. The acronym BEAM helps you make sure you find materials that will do the job you need in your paper. Research papers need materials in all four categories.
B = Background information. Do you know the seminal works, major scholars and theories in your topical area? What about the actual definitions of the disciplinary jargon you're using? Scholarly encyclopedias are the best source of background information: look in Oskicat under your discipline, with the word encyclopedias, [sociology encyclopedias]. Could also use Wikipedia, a textbook, a newspaper, or any source that fills you in on your big topic.
E = Evidence Often called primary sources, evidence is the stuff you are studying in your research. Evidence could be news coverage, laws, court cases, personal interviews, statistics or data... whatever helps you prove your thesis.
A = Analysis Here are the secondary sources-- analysis is usually written by faculty scholars or technical experts, who are themselves analyzing evidence that they may include or cite. As a student writing a paper, you are doing analysis, so it's important to refer to the work of others studying the same topic
M = Methodology This means the methods and questions you will use to analyze your evidence. Each discipline has its own favorite ways of asking questions and its own ideas about what sort of information can serve as evidence. You must know which methods are suitable to the disciplines you are working within. To find methodology, search for books by using the name of the discipline and the word methodology. E.g. Sociology method*.
[Bizup, Joseph. "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing." Rhetoric Review Vol. 27, Iss. 1, 2008]
Unsure how to start a paper or research project? Think maybe you could stand to brush up on search strategies?
If this sounds familiar, Library Workshop: Research 101 has you covered. This interactive tutorial explores six stages of the research process. You can view it from start to finish, or focus on specific sections as needed:
Starting strategies from choosing a topic to search keywords.
The publication timeline, scholarly v. popular sources, and differences in academic disciplines.
Search for books and other items in OskiCat, Cal's local library catalog.
Locate and access articles in library research databases.
Common techniques for constructing searches that yield useful results.
Specialized search strategies for targeting specific topics.
In order to avoid plagiarism, you must give credit when
This content is part of the Understanding Plagiarism tutorial created by the Indiana University School of Education.
How can you do truly interdisciplinary research, when most research sources are discipline-specific? Most of us learn to do research within a discipline, but you need to become adequate in multiple disciplines for this course.
Find specialized encyclopedias for your disciplines: