For 17.10.19

Narrowing your topic and finding sources

  • So far, we’ve developed overviews by surveying tertiary sources like the Big 4 surveys and asking a zillion questions
  • You next want to clarify your research questions by surveying increasingly relevant professional conversations in secondary sources
  • Essentially, you want to find people who’ve already answered your questions in ways that lead you to narrow your question

Narrowing and Complicating your Search

  • Your Interest Look for and assemble keywords by selecting those that interest you from the many topics offered by your tertiary (esp. Big 4)
  • Narrow and complicate Look for special terms that both narrow AND complicate your search so that, where you started off with the general term of “millennials”, you discover interesting conversations around “multi-generational workforces”
  • Narrow to research literatures Then add “research” or “scholar research” to get Google to return just that, so that your search is transformed from simply “millennials” to managing multi-generational workforces scholar research
  • Select the most interesting Then select what appears to be the most interesting, such as: A Multi-Generational Workforce: Managing and Understanding Millennia
  • Identify interesting sub-topics and keywords, as we found in the discussion of gender differences in: “Results show that males have higher job satisfaction levels than their female counterparts and females have higher organizational commitment levels than their male counterparts. “
  • This led us to reformulate our search, to ”managing multi-generational workforce teams research”.
  • And then we looked for and found an even more interesting formulation, in Understanding the impact of generational issues in the workplace: “– The link between the transition of knowledge and the management and design of facility space is made. Embracing workplace styles of flexible work locations, informal and fluid use of space, space for mentoring and team work, fun, open collaborative spaces, plug and play technological environments and non‐hierarchical organizational structures are just a few of the strategies which will have to be implemented in order to attract and retain high performance individuals.”

Lessons Learned

  • You are still exploring, the world is an interesting place but you’ve got to look for precisely that
  • You definitely want to find interesting stuff, which means figuring out what your interests might be
  • By asking what terms of each survey are the most interesting, you survey and select, survey and select, and in this way expand, complicate, and narrow your interest in terms being discussed by other professionals
  • Google works with search terms, and the more unique you can find the better: “inter-generational” is a subset of “millennials,” “teams” is a subset of that, and so on: in each case, you both complicate your interest AND narrow your search
  • When you survey your results for new sub-topics, expressed as new search terms, you are “massaging your data”
  • You are then using Google as a prompt, inviting you to respond and so think through your problem and so discover both your deeper interest AND interesting conversations among professionals

Additional Reading

  • Finding Sources, Craft 5
  • Engaging Sources, Craft 6
  • 8 ways to work with sources, Yale