Research Methods, Theory, & Professionalization

Course Number: EN600

Subject: English


This guide accompanies a workshop about engaging in scholarship as an English graduate student.

OBJECTIVE: apply library research methods for reviewing literature about a topic.

Shared Google Doc

Use our shared document to participate in collaborative note-taking.

  • Please add at least 1 note during class.
  • Please ask questions!

QUESTION: How many sources should you cite in a research paper?


1. Definitions

a) Scholarship

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

The attainments or works of a scholar; knowledge or expertise.

The collective attainments or works of scholars, esp. within a particular field of academic study.


Scholarship is conversation. Scholarship is community. Scholarship is process.

  • Peer-reviewed journal articles
  • Research monographs (aka books)
  • Conference papers
  • Presentations
  • Podcasts (e.g. Secret Feminist Agenda)
  • Conversation in classrooms, hallways, coffee shops, etc.

QUESTION: What does "peer review" mean in the context of peer-reviewed journal articles?


The Politics of Citation

Similar to the Bechdel test (a measure of gender inequality in film), the Gray test offers a way to consider citation habits in scholarship.

Image Description

Gray test. If an article fails to meet this bare-minimum test, it’s biased and needs improvement: (1) Cite 2 women scholars, (2) cite 2 BIPOC scholars, (3) meaningfully engage with that scholarship. After Kishonna Gray, inventor of #citeherwork.

From Writing Your Academic Journal Article in 12 Weeks (Belcher, 2019)


b) Library Research Methods

Strategies, processes, techniques, and tools that facilitate how you engage in scholarship.

For example, reviewing literature around a topic involves:

  • identifying your research purpose or goals
  • selecting search tools to find peer-reviewed journal articles;
  • applying search tactics to get relevant results;
  • using software to manage your sources.

QUESTION: Where do you tend to search for peer-reviewed journal articles in practice?


A Research Imagination

Learning about library research methods is part of developing a research imagination.

Image Description
A research imagination takes time to develop: something that is part of the research apprenticeship. It involves: having a broad view on a topic; being open to ideas regardless of how or where they originated; following ideas to see where they might lead; playing with different ideas in order to see if links can be made; scrutinizing ideas, methods, and arguments regardless of who proposed them. 
Hart, Chris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. Thousand Oaks, SAGE Publications, 2018


2. Developing Methods for Reviewing Literature

a) Identifying Your Goals

Your goals for reviewing the literature will be different depending on the project at hand.


Goals for a Research Paper or Thesis


QUESTION: How would you search for 5 of the most recent peer-reviewed articles on a topic by researchers in your field?


b) Selecting Search Tools

Databases (e.g. MLA International Bibliography) are the best places to search for peer-reviewed journal articles.

The Library search tool, Omni, is a good place to search for books.


c) Using Search Tactics

Search tactics can improve the relevancy of your results.

What is the tactic? What does the tactic do? Examples
Boolean AND

Use AND to ensure that all terms appear in every search result.

depression AND home care

Boolean OR

Use OR to ensure that at least one term appears in every search result.

transgender OR LGBTQ OR GLBT

Phrase searching Use quotation marks to find more than one term in a row.

brain cancer

Truncation Use an asterisk* at the end of a term to include multiple endings.


trauma, traumatic, traumatically, traumatize, traumatized, traumatizing

Wildcard Use a question mark ? within a term to search for variations of a single character.


decolonize, decolonise


d) Managing sources 

This is the part of your methods that involves planning how to deal with all the articles, books, interviews, etc., you want to track and save.

In any project, you wouldn't want to collect lots of data without having a plan for how to store and access it.

  • Saves time.
  • Facilitates topic development.
  • Keeps you accountable.

Image Description

Citation management means planning how to collect, organize, access, cite, and share your sources.


Software to Manage Sources

  • Zotero is a free tool.
    • Manage all sources in one place.
    • Create folders and subfolders for projects.
    • Store, read, annotate PDFs.
    • Save screenshots from websites.
    • Access sources from any browser.
    • Create group libraries.
    • Create and update in-text citations and references automatically.


Citing with Zotero


Getting Started with Zotero

  1. Go to
  2. Register for a free account.
  3. Click the download button.
  4. Download the Zotero app.
  5. Download the Zotero connector.