Research Methods and Thesis Preparation

Course Number: GESC360

Subject: Geography and Environmental Studies

What is a literature review
  • A "re-view" of already existing information
  • A secondary source, desk-based research method which critically describes and appraises a topic.
  • Why do it?
First steps
  1. Beak your research topic or question into concepts
  2. Run a few simple searches to determine what terms are used in different databases
  3. Create a search strategy you will run across multiple databases
Create your own research vocabulary
  • Create a "controlled vocabulary" (aka index, subject headings, keywords) before you start searching
  • These are critically important concepts in your research area that you define
  • Assists you in searching, categorizing, analysis, and final write up

Advanced Research Techniques

  • Comprehensive search across multiple databases
  • Most databases:
    • Use connectors (boolean operators) to combine terms:
      • AND, OR, NOT
      • " exact phrase "
      • Truncation - * manag* (manage, management, managing)
      • Wildcard - ? colo?r
      • Search example:
        • "climate change" or "global warming" AND park? or "protected area?" OR "Conservation area?" AND manag* or plan* or administrat*
    • Use "controlled vocabulary" or subject terms
      • you can find subject terms by browsing abstracts of your initial results, or subjects usually displayed at the left side of the search results page
    • Allow you to narrow or limit results
    • Allow you to combine and save searches
  • Start at the GES Subject page; consult Geobase, Proquest GES bundle, and Web of Science at a minimum
  • All databases have great Help resources; consult for exact terminology and advanced search strategies
Expert consultation
  • Using expert(s) to find specific literature
    • Good way of leading into key authors
    • Good to identify key journals
    • Usually advisable to start with some initial research yourself
Dissertations and Theses
Sidebar: what about Google Scholar?
  • Not everything in Google Scholar is scholarly (or peer-reviewed)
  • When using, be very cautious about results
  • Good to use if you have a citation and are looking up a single article, or a known peer-reviewed journal
  • When connecting off-campus, first set up off-campus access to access Laurier resources
Managing your information resources
Further Reading

On writing your geography thesis

Parsons, A. J., and Peter Knight. 2015. How to Do Your Dissertation in Geography and Related Disciplines. 3rd ed. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. (e-book version)

Geography Research Manuals

  • These deal more with non-library related components of the research process.

Clifford, N.J. et al. (eds.). 2015. Key methods in geography. London: SAGE Publications. (multiple editions available)

Gomez, B. and J. P. Jones. (eds.). 2010. Research methods in geography : a critical introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Montello, D. R. and P. C. Sutton (eds.). 2013. An introduction to scientific research methods in geography and environmental studies. 2nd ed. London: SAGE Publications.

General Library Research Manuals

Abbott, A. 2014. Digital paper : a manual for research and writing with library and internet materials. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Abbott is an expert Sociologist and provides a great narrative of what detailed library work consists of.

Mann, T. 2015. The Oxford guide to library research. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press. (e-book)

  • A comprehensive look into the entire gamut of library research; covers database searching at the intermediate to expert level.