Introduction to Indigenous Studies

Course #: ID/CT120-BR

Strategies for picking and focusing a topic

To choose a good research topic and focus it, you need background knowledge. Good questions to ask yourself are what do you know about the topic and are the sources of your knowledge reliable.

Be careful:

When we are starting research, it is easy to overestimate how much we know.

Does your background knowledge have a reliable foundation (scholarly books or articles) or does the source of what you think you know originate from a popular misconception or stereotype (Disney films or Hollywood films)?

Building background knowledge

Start with your course readings and texts to identify a topic you would like to research further and to identify some of the key issues surrounding your chosen topic. Check the references of the course readings or texts to identify other sources to provide more information on the topic. Once you have consulted two or three scholarly sources on your topic, create a focused research question to guide your search strategies. You might find the following library tutorials helpful.

Finding a journal article when you only know the title

Developing a Research Question

Deciding Where to Search

What kind of perspective do you need on the topic? Is it a recent event (the Idle No More movement) or is it more of a historical topic (Treaties, Residential Schools)? How do you plan to engage with the topic? If you wish to examine the legacy of residential schools and you want to focus on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, it will still be important to learn about the historical context.

Books often provide a good introduction to a topic

Books will provide a larger context for a particular issue than journal articles. Journal articles are usually focused on one key aspect of a topic. When using a book for research purposes, you don't need to read the entire book. It is a good idea to read the introduction (if there is one) because the author will often outline his/her purpose (argument) in writing the book and he/she will also often outline why he/she organized the chapters in a particular order. By scanning the Table of Contents or the index at the back of the book, you can target key sections of the book most likely to be helpful to you.

The following library tutorials may be helpful to you.

How to find scholarly books

Finding eBooks

Finding Books: Using the Primo Library Catalogue

Journal articles will be most useful once you have a focused research question

Because journal articles focus on a particular aspect of a topic, you will find it harder to locate relevant articles for your research until you have a focused research question. The authors of articles are writing for other researchers in the field of study and he/she will often assume the reader has a certain level of knowledge. If I am just starting my research the articles will be more difficult to understand.

The following library tutorial may be helpful to you.

Finding Articles on a Topic

Creating Effective Search Strategies

The following library tutorial may be helpful to you.

Using Keywords Effectively