Applying Leadership Experience II

Course #: OL202-OC

Engaging with Secondary Sources in OL202

It is also helpful to know how to use the personal dataset you compiled in OL201 to be able to engage with library research and to find additional secondary sources. For example, I may want to explore how my demonstrated leadership approach aligns with other models of leadership. In order to do this, I want to start moving my attention to additional secondary sources beyond the course readings and start the research process.

With this is mind, I created a preliminary research question. I am going to provide one example of how a search might start, but where and how you should start a search depends on the question you are researching and the type of information you need.

In the example below, I decided to prioritize familiarizing myself with the academic literature, but the literature for the field of leadership is published in both books and articles and various online formats that cut across many different writing genres. The publications may be either popular, trade or academic, and the source that will best meet my information needs will depend on how I plan to use it. A key point to remember is that information is context sensitive.

Questions you may want to ask to help you determine what kind of source will best meet your information needs.

The first question to ask yourself is: what am I being asked to do?

Are you looking for literature that demonstrates a rigorous, methodical approach to finding the answer to a research question? If so, it would be best to start with the scholarly literature.

Do you need to familiarize yourself with what is happening in a particular industry? If so, you may want to target trade publications.

If there has been a recent issue that is being discussed in the media, then newspapers and magazines will be your best choice.

This link will take you to a webpage with general guidelines outlining the key differences between the different types of publications.

Databases useful for finding Leadership scholarship

Because the literature in this field of study is so varied, you will want to use different tools and search strategies to find what you need. These databases include different types of publications, but if you are looking for academic literature on a topic, there is often a filter you can activate by checking the box for scholarly/peer reviewed journals.

Business Source Complete

Business Premium Collection

Canadian Business & Current Affairs database


Creating a preliminary research question to guide your searches

It is a good idea to create a preliminary research question because a question can help with identifying keywords to use in your searches as well as provide a framework to help you recognize the sources that might be most helpful in meeting your information needs. Remember it is also best to think in terms of a question so that you keep an open mind regarding the sources you find and to avoid confirmation bias.


My preliminary research question:

I decided to start my search by asking the question "what attributes / qualities are valued in leaders according to research done in this area of study?"


This question is broad, but it serves as a starting point to help me think about what keywords might work best. At this point, I am not looking for anything specific. I want to get an idea for the kinds of directions I might explore in more detail. As I learn more about the scholarship in this area of study, I will be able to refine and improve my research question to make it more effective and relevant.

When you have a broader topic, it is often a good idea to start with books and so I went to the advanced search for Omni. Click on this link to go to the Omni advanced search


I clicked on the books tab and started with the keywords “executive ability” and to focus the topic I added the term “Case studies” – if my search topic is very broad, one way to focus it would be to look for a particular type of resource. A case study is an excellent starting point for my particular research question because it will offer a detailed, in-depth examination of the topic of the study.


This was one of my records:

Leadership assessment for talent development

Editors: Tony Wall and John Knights

London: Kogan Page Limited 2013

This link will take you to the Omni record for the book

Using a book strategically for research purposes

I always read the introduction, if the book has one. This will give me a quick roadmap to the purpose and structure of the text and allow me to target the parts of the book that will be most useful to me in building my knowledge. For example, I have already identified storytelling as one component of my dataset and the introduction of the book, "Leadership assessment for talent development," tells me that if I am interested in storytelling and its importance to leadership I should look at chapter ten.


If the book doesn't have an introduction, you can either scan the table of contents or use the index (if there is one) at the back of the book to identify which parts of a book might be most useful to you. If the book is electronic, like the example book, then there will also often be a search function.


Gradually building your knowledge in a field of study

Scholarly research is a conversation in progress and so it is important to learn how the conversation has progressed over time before you join the conversation and make your own contribution.


A big question for students is: How do you identify the key scholarly literature if you are new to the scholarship?


  • Expertise needs to be developed gradually and research is an iterative process. It is often best to identify two or three sources from your first search which might be helpful. Read those sources and then return to your search.
  • Look at the citations in your course readings. Are there certain names that appear frequently in the course readings?
  • A literature review can often bring you up to speed on how scholarship has developed over time in a field of study. Research studies will usually have a literature review section because the author(s) will want to place their work in the context of the previous work that was done before, will often identify gaps where more research needs to be done, and will discuss how their work addresses a gap in the literature. Sometimes literature reviews are published as full articles.