LAS 4934: Human Rights in Latin America

The Research Process in 5 Steps

According to your syllabus, "Each student will choose a human rights issue or movement/organization and will research and write a 7-10 page paper on your chosen topic."

Here are the basic steps in the research process:

1. Understanding the assignment - Make sure you understand what is required (i.e., format style, number of pages, due date, scope, and types of resources required). Do I need primary and secondary sources?  What are they?

2. Selecting a topic - This is an exploratory stage when a librarian can be very useful.  Background reading of articles to understand your topic may be required. You will need to retrofit a topic that is too broad or expand on a topic that is too narrow. 

3.  Developing a search strategy

  • Develop key search terms from your background reading [encyclopedias may be helpful here!].
  • Create a search statement (i.e, role of the military in the massacre of civilians in the El Salvador civil war)
  • Identify appropriate databases and book catalogs and websites
  • Create a log of the searches you have done in each search tool (i.e., database) and note their effectiveness

4.  Retrieving and evaluating results - Are the resources appropriate for my topic and are they from authoritative sources? Are there cited reference lists in the articles I found that I can use to get to more resources? Do I have the resources I need from both secondary and primary sources? Are the websites I found reputable and informative? 

5.  Creating and managing an online bibliography of resources using citation management software such as RefWorks, EndNote, or Zotero. 

Tips and tricks for good research:

1. Don't just rely on Google, Wikipedia, or Google Scholar to retrieve the results you need. These resources are not designed to provide what you need for this assignment.  Identify and experiment with library databases early in the research process.

2.  Look for scholarly articles in databases (online catalogs are for books and other materials).

3.  Set up a RefWorks or Endnote account early in the is a time saver!

4.  Use Google Scholar and Google Books strategically. 

5.  Learn how to use U-Borrow and Interlibrary Loan to your advantage.  If you plan ahead, getting the books and articles you want from other libraries is easy!

6. Seek help early from librarians online, at the reference desk, or via email or through a research consultation appointment.  See Ask A Librarian!