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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.