Dom Taylor

Philosophy, Religion, and French, Spanish, & Italian Librarian 

Father Harold Drake Library and Elizabeth Dafoe Library

Catholic Studies Subject Guide

Research Skills

CATH 1190-A02

January 29, 2018

  1. 3-5 page essay (about 1200 to 2000 words max in APA format).
  2. Your research question is "In what way(s) did persecution within the first three hundred years come to shape the Catholic tradition?" This gives you a general direction, but leaves you a lot of room to identify a specific issue. Narrow the question down to something more specific.
  3. Use APA format. There are some online resources and a general overview of APA available. 

For this first assignment

  • Usually the author has credentials (e.g., PhD) and/or is associated with an academic/research organization (this varies greatly from field-to-field).
  • There is a concern for citation and placing research within a broader context (e.g., reviewing related literature).
  • Methodology (i.e., how research is conducted) is usually discussed.
  • There is generally a concern for identifying and addressing limitations and competing viewpoints (i.e., there is a clear attempt to avoid bias)
  • Peer reviewed sources are a good indicator of scholarly information

Identifying scholarly information

1. Determine a topic: Pick something that interests you and try to find an aspect that you can narrow down. This is a good time to use encyclopedias/reference sources (e.g., New Catholic Encyclopedia, Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Religion, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Gale Virtual Reference Library, CREDO Reference, Blackwell Reference), Google Scholar, Google, and even Wikipedia (look at the references for links to scholarly information).

 

2. Formulate a focused research question/thesis: neither too broad nor too narrow. This is tricky and will take practice. You can start by answering "who," "what," "why," "when," "where," and "how" questions. Set some parameters (e.g., dates, geographic location, demographic information), but be ready to change them. Here are some more strategies.

 

3. From your question, identify keywords, including synonyms and related concepts, and possible subject headings:  You can search for standard subject headings here. Concept mapping can be helpful.

Basic Search Strategy

4. Identify possible types of useful information: scholarly articles, books, literature reviews, edicts of Roman emperors, Papal Encyclicals, Apostolic Letters, and primary sources (e.g., letters, diaries, first-hand accounts). 

 

5. Make a list of sites and databases where you can find these types of information. The Catholic Studies Subject Guide is a good place to start. You can also do a general search in the library catalogue. This is a very important step.

 

6. Combine keywords, phrases, subject headings into search queries:  Try many different searches and combinations of terms. Expect that it will take at least 10 different searches to get a good feel for what is out there.

 

7. Keep track of interesting articles! (see slide on Zotero below)

The guiding principle of searching:

EXPERIMENTATION

If you have issues finding results in Step 6, go back to Step 2 and make some adjustments.

  • Phrase searching: most search engines allow for phrase searching. This means that you can search for whole phrases (e.g., "early church") instead of individual words (e.g., "early" + "church"). Just put the phrase you want to search in quotation marks (i.e., ""). This will help limit your results!

  • Identify synonyms and closely related words: When you are using keywords, remember that authors do not always use the same words for the same concepts. For example, you may want to look up "persecution", "oppression," "victimization," "maltreatment," and "discrimination". "Martydom" is a related term. Use a dictionary or thesaurus!

**You can find some video tutorials on search strategies here

A few quick search tips

  • Truncation: * (asterix) symbol is added near the end of a word to find all variations of that word (e.g., "Christian*" will find results for "Christianity," "Christians," "Christiania," and "Christian"). This will increase the amount of results. Not always the same symbol in every search engine. Be sure to check.
  • Wildcards: # (pound) symbol can be added within or at the end of a word to represent 0 to 1 characters (any character). This means you would add a "#" symbol for each character you want to search. For example "wom#n" will look up "women," "woman,"  "womyn;" "friend####" will look up "friend", "friends," and "friendship" (etc...). This will increase the amount of results. Not always the same symbol in every search engine.

BOOLEAN OPERATORS!

Human Boolean Game

Please stand up!

Stay standing if:

 

(1) You are in CATH 1190-A02

 

 

Stay standing if:

 

(1) You are in CATH 1190-A02

 

AND

 

(2) You are wearing (jeans OR glasses)

 

 

Stay standing if:

 

(1) You are in CATH 1190-A02

 

AND

 

(2) You are wearing (jeans OR glasses)

 

But you did NOT

 

(3) "Eat breakfast" this morning

Let's make this into a "search query"

"CATH 1190-A02" 
AND 
("wearing jeans" OR "wearing glasses") 
NOT
("eat breakfast" AND morning)

Boolean Operators

These are words that cause search engines to modify how they search. Let's look at this diagram to get a better idea.

AND

OR

NOT

Persecut*

Christian*

A search for persecut* AND Christian* will find results that contain both terms and will exclude results that only have one of the two terms.

Persecut*

Christian*

A search for persecut* OR Christian* will find results that contain either of the search terms. This will generate more results. Handy for synonyms.

A search for persecut* NOT Christian* will find results that contain persecut* but do NOT contain Christian*. Use this sparingly and play around with it.

Persecut*

Christian*

+

Let's try out some of these strategies

Test search of our catalogue

Christian* 
AND 
(persecut* OR oppression OR martyr*)
AND
Diocletian

Limiters

  • These allow you to limit results. Limiting may seem strange, but when there are tens of thousands of results available, you need to narrow your search down. Limiters are an easy way to do this!

Limit to peer-reviewed and full text online

Limit to resource type (e.g. articles)

Limit by publication date

Limit to location if you want print resources

1. Divide into groups of 6 to 7

2.  Briefly discuss your assignment question: "In what way(s) did persecution within the first three hundred years come to shape the Catholic tradition?"

3. Identify some ways that you might approach this question. For example, you may want to look at some key figures in the early church (e.g., Saint Cyprian or Saint Peter) and how they have impacted Catholicism. 

4. Based on this discussion, write out 2 research questions that you think are appropriate in scope (neither too broad nor too narrow).

5. Find one relevant resource (a specific entry) for each question that could help you with your research. You can start with some of these: New Catholic Encyclopedia, Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Religion, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, and the Vatican website (for encyclicals , Apostolic Letters, and other official church documents).

6. Revise your questions if necessary.

ASK DR. BACOLA AND I FOR ASSISTANCE!

Workshop: Narrowing your topic

1. Apostolic missions (e.g., St. Paul or St. Thomas)

2. Early martyrs and confessors and their influence

3. Ascetics and their tests of faith (e.g., St. Anthony of Egypt or St. Paul the Hermit of Thebes)

4. Church teachings: Council of Jersualem, First Council of Nicaea (e.g., canons relating to lapsi, Canon XI ), or the Didache.

 

Potential topic themes

Questions?

Dom Taylor

Religion and Social Work Librarian

Father Harold Drake Library and Elizabeth Dafoe Library

Catholic Studies Subject Guide

dominique.taylor@umanitoba.ca

204-474-9184

THANKS!!!

1. Once you have a general topic, choose something more specific that interests you about it. You may have come across something while you were browsing reference sources

 

2. Ask the 5W's+H (see previous page, section).

 

3. Identify the main issues/problems/areas of your topic. Are there any controversies?

Narrowing your search

4. Do some scoping research (see previous page, section 1) and see if there are major authors or articles that come up frequently.

 

5.  Start formulating a research question. Generally, avoid questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no." Keep questions open-ended! Avoid questions that include a conclusion (bias).

 

6. Your question should contain identifiable keywords based on your knowledge of the topic (through your scoping search).

Example of a concept map for the research question: “How can nations justify the ascription of refugee status to
asylum seekers?”

Red = MAIN CONCEPTS

Blue = SYNONYMS

Orange = RELATED TERMS

Subject terms? Keywords? Both?

Subject Terms

  • Usually defined by librarians or information specialists
  • Allow linking articles by topic instead of the specific terms used in a given article
  • It is easier to find articles related to your general topic
  • Sometimes inappropriate or out-of-date

Keywords

  • Based on everyday language
  • Effective searching relies on knowing synonyms and commonly used terms
  • Can generate irrelevant results. Based on the frequency of the keyword rather than relevancy
  • Searches all available or selected parts of a resources (e.g., title, author, etc..)

 

USE BOTH!

Catholic Studies 1190-A02: Research Workshop

By Dom Taylor

Catholic Studies 1190-A02: Research Workshop

A brief look at some research strategies and techniques

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