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Advanced Research Skills Workshop for Graduate Students

Pulling it All Together

Once you've designed your research and gathered resources, the next key task is to make sense of what you have, organize it meaningfully around your outline, and write effectively.

Formatting citations

Most databases have citation tools available within them to format citations according to a variety of standards. For example, EBSCO e-books and Atla Religion Database have Cite links available once you click on a title in your result list:


 

Moscicke, Hans, and Hans M Moscicke. “Jesus as Scapegoat in Matthew’s Roman-Abuse Scene (Matt 27:27-31).” Novum Testamentum 62, no. 3 (2020): 229–56. doi:10.1163/15685365-12341669.

Pay attention to format and follow your institution's guidelines carefully.

Evaluating your Found Resources

Evaluating your resources includes two main factors: quality and relevance to your research problem.

1. Quality

  • Peer reviewed academic sources are best. You can rely on a "scholarly resources" filter on your search results page (not always reliable) or Google a publisher/journal name and check if it is peer reviewed. Note that,  these days, authors often make preprints available on the Web. These are completed manuscripts that have not yet been peer reviewed.
  • You can use checklists like this one - http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm - to establish criteria for evaluation.
  • In general, the qualifications of the author(s) form the best test for quality. Who is the author? What degrees or other qualifications? What sort of track record for academic publishing?

2. Relevance

The quality of your resources can be great, but they will be useless if they do not contribute to resolving the research problem you are addressing. Note that your resources should address your problem, not just the broader topic within which your problem rests. You must also include resources covering all points of view on your issue. When possible, include primary sources (works actually by the key scholars involved.

Outlining

Taking your preliminary outline and turning it into something more like what you will need in the final product is a bit of an art. See Research Strategies (the first part of chapter 11).

In general, provide information early in your project and analysis later, be sure you provide the reader with background before you move into more advanced material, and follow a natural order that makes sense.

The following may help you make sense of developing outlines where you are comparing and contrasting various viewpoints.

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Organizing Found Resources

A common challenge is that you end up with a number of books and articles, then struggle to organize the information in them to support the way you address your research problem. Here are some steps to take:

1. Take notes from or highlight crucial information from your found resources.

2. Use the power of your research problem statement and outline. As you now expand your outline, it becomes a blueprint for organizing your materials. Here is a guide to organization that creates a cross-reference between your notes and your outline:

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Writing

There is a chapter on writing in my book, Research Strategies (chapter 11). The following presentation, created for a graduate research course, provides more tips. Note that a couple of slides refer to thesis work but this information is practical for all academic writing:

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Exercises

The following are tasks you can perform to build your skills. 

Task #1 - Read Research Strategies: Finding your Way through the Information Fog, chapter 7-11.

Task #2 - Evaluate your past methods of organizing and writing in light of this new information. Answer the following:

1. How skilled do you think you are at formatting citations? How could you improve?

2. How comfortable are you in creating outlines? What gaps do you see in your skills, if any?

3. Do you have a method for note organization? If so, please explain it. If not, how would Badke's suggested method help you (or not be workable for you?)

4. Express 3 takeaways from the presentation on writing that could improve the authorship of your research projects.