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Masters of Community Planning: Library Research Best Practices

A guide supporting VIU MCP students.

Advice from Orientation Day

1. Getting Organized

  • Know your logistics before starting
  • Plan
  • Gather necessary materials
  • Outline/Concept Map
  • Get to know your librarian, make an appointment
  • Schedule your time wisely
  • Figure out a reference management solution before you start (i.e. RefWorks, Flow, Mendeley)
  • Colour coordinate materials

2. Choosing a Topic

  • Know your question
  • Not too narrow/broad
  • Start broad and narrow your topic if you don't already have a narrow focus.  If you have a narrow focus to start, expand as necessary.
  • Evolving topic
  • Look for "future research questions" section of other research (not always a specific section, but usually near the end of articles).
  • Try different terminology for searches
  • Pick something you like!
  • Pick a topic that you can work with within your time constraints (i.e. don't pick a topic that requires the library to bring in books from other places when the assignment is due in 2 days).

3. Search Strategies/Finding Material

  • Once you find one good source, follow up on the references cited (i.e. snowball)
  • Try four different searches: LibrarySearch (books), LibrarySearch (articles), Google Scholar, Google
  • If you're going to use Google Scholar, do so via the link on the library's main page.  This allows you to avoid paywalls when accessing content the library owns.
  • Interviews with stakeholders and staff
  • Start with initial readings and look at references
  • Find research and primary sources
  • Network
  • Look at centres of knowledge in community
  • Learn to look at interdisciplinary source
  • NEVER, EVER pay for access to material.  The library can bring it in for free for you via interlibrary loan

4. Evaluating Material

  • Look for recent, peer-reviewed material.
  • Think about assumptions in the article

5. Citing

  • OWL Purdue is a great resource
  • Look for the Library's Citation Guide
  • There's a grey area in including sources for general ideas.  If in doubt, ask your professor, a librarian, or the Writing Centre.

6. Writing

  • Make sure to have a thesis statement.
  • Create an outline, ask your professor to look over.
  • Have others review/edit your work.
  • Try not to repeat the same word over and over.  Use a thesaurus.
  • Keep a regular schedule of deadlines (i.e. I'll write on Tuesday afternoons)

As brainstormed by the first MCP cohort, September 2015.