How to do Academic Research

I’m in my final months of my undergraduate studies and when I started on proper academic research, I was overwhelmed and really nervous about the whole thing. Earlier on I did a post on writing a Dissertation Proposal. This would be a good accompanying post to my point of reading. I thought it would be nice to share what I have discovered/learned in doing an academic research – especially for social sciences.

  • Readings/Lecturers: I’m hoping this should be similar for everyone. We are always given reading materials for each module and also particular readings for each week/lecture accordingly. This is a good point to start and further your research from there. Or start with the key theorists/theories of that particular topic as well. If you feel a little stunned from all that material, speak to your lecturer and ask for a reading that you can begin with.
  • Google Scholar: This is such an excellent place for you to gather your resources at the comfort of your home. In all cases, it is important for you to identify the keywords that you want to search about. The search engine will give you so many results as Google always do. It gives you a lot of information – author, year of publication, source (book, online journal etc) and very crucially, it lets you know how many times it was cited. You should take note of it because the credibility of the article is reflected from that. So you found your article but you do not have access to that source…
  • University Library: I’m super thankful about how resourceful my university library is. It’s like I can access and find almost anything! Become educated about how to use your library search and system. Speak to a librarian and ask for the best way to search. They will have some really good tips and tricks on how to sieve through thousands of search results. The ones that you can’t access from Google Scholar is probably available there because your university has probably paid for that access. The classic books should also be available physically in the library for you. Or send suggestions to your library/lecturer in asking them to buy copies for the library.
  • References: I must say this is really the best. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right sources for a certain topic but you have a few in hand and that’s not enough. That’s actually great. Look through the references of the articles that you already have and search for those. Because obviously they must have referenced journals that are of relevance to their works, and they are almost definitely reliable.

Finally, always reference! Plagiarism is the worst and there’s really no point to that. You lose marks, you do not learn and you are not critically engaging with the material or the assignment. Reference everything that is not your work/thought. If you are not sure, ask. Quote whatever that are not your words and even when you paraphrase something, you must reference it.

Be sure about what referencing-style system that your module/course/university uses too. We have the Harvard System but there are all sorts of Harvard Systems out there. The best advice that we have received is to stick to one and keep it consistent.

All the best!

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