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Black Studies

Introduction

There is no wrong way to do research! The research process can look different depending on the class, assignment, or end goal. This guide is designed to get you started on your research, but if you need any additional help, reach out to the librarians!

Have a research assignment to do?

  • This guide is designed to give you some general tips to help you get started. For more detailed and advanced instructions, check out our advanced Research Strategies guide.

Have a different type of writing project to complete? 

Understand Your Research Assignment

Where to begin?
  1. Read your assignment carefully and make sure you understand your professor's instructions and expectations. Be sure to note any date or material type restrictions. (Examples: Use only peer reviewed journals, locate articles from the past three years.., etc.)
  2. Next, follow your interest! Brainstorm ideas about the topic of your assignment or research. Try to make it something that sparks your curiosity or that you can relate to. It will make your research more fun!
  3. Then, think of some key words to describe your topic using both commonly used words as well as terms that may be used specifically in your subject (Example: in human anatomy, the word "eye" is commonly used but "ocular" and "ophthalmic" are other terms).
  4. Now, it is time to do some reading and searching on your topic! 

Don't forget, if you get stuck at any point, you can always schedule an appointment with an Oxy librarian.

Finding Sources

Finding sources (like articles and books) in databases is a lot like online shopping: you use a combination of keywords and filters to help you narrow down what you're looking for. 

If you don't know much about your topic, start by looking for articles and books in OneSearch (our library catalog) or Google Scholar (don't forget to link your Google account with your Oxy library access!). 

Once you have more knowledge about your topic, use the subject databases recommended in this guide to access peer-reviewed or other scholarly material.

Types of Sources

These are the main types of information sources that you will encounter in your research:

  • Peer reviewed article: a manuscript that has gone through review by experts in the field and has been accepted as good quality work.  It can either be an empirical/primary source article or a review article (secondary source).
  • Review article: An article that synthesizes and evaluates information from several primary articles.  It does not describe original research conducted by the author(s). Instead, it gives an overview of a specific subject by examining previously published studies on the topic.
  • Preprint: either a primary/empirical article or review/secondary article that has not yet been peer-reviewed.  The goal is to allow for immediate access to research.  It is the responsibility of the reader/user of the preprint to vet the information in them and to monitor the preprint source to follow its status.
  • Popular media/commercial websites: online resources where individuals share their personal opinions and interpretations.  It is the responsibility of the reader/user to verify content before sharing it any further.

Source Evaluation with RADAR

Found a source, but not quite sure if it fits your assignment? You can use the RADAR (Rationale, Authority, Date, Appearance, Relevance) framework to evaluate it.

*Remember that every source has its use, so investigate each source you encounter in both the context of its creation and its potential use in your work.*

Rationale

  1. Why did the author or publisher make this information available? 
  2. What tone is used?
  3. What is the source's bias? How does it impact the presentation of information?

Authority

  1. What are the author's credentials?
  2. What is the author's affiliation?
  3. What can you find out about the publisher? 

Date

  1. When was the information published or last updated?
  2. Have newer articles been published on your topic?
  3. Are links or references to other sources up-to-date?

Appearance

  1. Do the citations and references support the author's claim? Are the references correctly cited?
  2. What do other people have to say on the topic? Is there general agreement among subject experts?
  3. Was the item published by a peer-reviewed journal, academic press, or other reliable publisher?

Relevance

  1. Does the information answer your research question and fit your assignment?
  2. Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?
  3. Who is the intended audience?

Sources:

Advanced Research Strategies and Citation Management

Please follow this link for more advanced Research Strategies including information on Citation Management.