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Politics & International Relations

The Research Process

When you are given an assignment questions make sure you fully understand what is being asked on you. Refer to the guidance in your module handbook or lecture slides for further information, or discuss it with your tutors. 

1. Identify the 'question' word(s)

You could use the 'Analysing the question' section of the Skills for Learning website to help you. 

2. Identify core concepts/keywords

What is the main focus of the question?

3. Identify synonyms or related terms

Example: 

Explore the role of religious groups in establishing peace (or women and peace)

'Explore' is the question word - it's what you have to do

On the next tab you will find tips and tricks to help you develop your search strategy and make your searching more efficient.

Religious Movements Peace                       
Christianity Conflict resolution
Islam Armistice
Buddhism Cease-fire
Faith Concord

 

Once you have identifying your keywords, synonyms and related terms you can start to construct a search strategy. 

Use search tools: 

Phrase searching uses speech marks to help you search for phrases e.g. "foreign policy" 

Truncation uses the asterisk to help you search for terms with variant endings e.g. politic* = politics, politicians, political 

Combine terms using AND, OR and NOT 

AND - for combining different concepts

OR - for identifying research that use synonyms or related terms. You need to put the similar terms in brackets. 

NOT - use when you want to exclude a term (use with caution as it can eliminate useful results too)

(religion OR Christianity) AND (peace OR conflict resolution)

Some resources have an 'advanced search' feature which can help you to combine your searches. 

Identify appropriate resources to search.

   a. Reading lists - are there any core textbooks that your tutors recommend on your topic?

      i. Check your modules in MyBeckett

   b. Use the Library Catalogue to find additional books and e-books

      i. Available on the 'Welcome' page of this guide

   c. Use Discover to search our e-journals and other subscriptions  

      i. Available on the 'Welcome' page of this guide

   d. Use subject specific resources to help you focus your results 

      i. Available on the 'Specialist Resources' page of this guide

You can search most resources in exactly the same way, the search screen may just look a bit different. 

To help you refine your results and make them more manageable look for limiters such as 'Publication date' or 'Resource type' 

It's important that you think critically about the sources you want to use in your assignments. Evaluate what you find and make a judgment about whether it is appropriate to be used or if any flaws need identifying in your discussions. 

The majority of Health and Social Sciences articles are written following the IMRAD format, Introduction, Method, Research, And Discussion. Here are a series of points to consider for each section of such articles when appraising them:

Introduction: Why has the research been undertaken? What was the purpose of the research? The aims of the research should be clearly outlined in the introduction and should also contain any evidence of a literature review along with any keywords used by the author when searching.

Method: When, where and how was the study conducted? Who or what was the subject of the study? Are any ethical issues outlined? Was a pilot study conducted to identify any potential problems with the methodology? Is the information provided detailed enough for others to replicate the research? Has the researcher chosen a qualitative or a quantitative approach to data collection? If so, what are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach for this specific research? Is there any evidence of triangulation - of data being obtained by more than one method? Was data gathered from a large and diverse enough sample size? And how effective was the response rate or other collection method? Have any potential biases or issues been acknowledged? Have any interventions been made to eliminate any potential biases or issues which might have affected the research's reliability? 

Results: Are the results comprehensibly presented? How do they relate to the original research question? Have the results - and the research's interpretation of them - been assessed by a peer-reviewer, or other form of critical friend beyond the original researcher(s)?

Discussion: What are the practical, academic, professional and broader implications of the research? Is any of it applicable to your research, daily role, or professional practice? Has the researcher included discussion of how their study might be improved, and suggestions for further study? What is your interpretation of this information?

Not all of the above points will apply to every paper, but at least some of them should help you assess the strengths, weaknesses and relevance of information which you are considering.

There are several tools to help with evaluating the quality of articles and research papers. The PROMPT mnemonic can be used to help you identify key areas to evaluate when reading a paper.

Presentation: look out for poor use of language and inappropriate or ineffectual writing style

Relevance: does the paper answer your question and fit within the geographical or time period restrictions of your search strategy?

Objectivity: look for any hidden bias or selective interpretation of data. Also authors usually list conflicts of interest and sponsorship/ funding sources at the end of the article which may influence their arguments.

Method: is it clear how the research was carried out? Use your knowledge from previous lectures/ tutorials to critique the methods for data collection. Question whether the methods are appropriate? Look at things like the size of the sample tested in the study, was a pilot study conducted prior to the main research to iron out any potential problems? Look at the design of the questions if a questionnaire was used.

Provenance; look at the qualifications of the author. Do they have a particularly controversial view on the subject? Also, check whether the researcher has been sponsored. If so, are they sponsored by a commercial, voluntary or research organisation? Is the organisation well established? Remember to check the publication method. Has the article been published in a well regarded, peer reviewed journal?

Timelines; depending upon your topic, you may decide you need up to date information.

 

The CRAAP mnemonic is also an easy way to remember key points to look for when critiquing papers and websites

Currency: how up to date is the research

Relevancy: does the paper answer your research question and any exclusion criteria

Accuracy: how reliable are the methods of data collection. Has the researcher chosen the best way to investigate their question

Authority: who has written the paper? Are they a reliable source

Purpose: why has the paper been written. was it to entertain, education or sell something?

For the Leeds Beckett University guide to referencing check Quote Unquote, the University style guide.

You will also find some useful referencing resources here