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SSI2-141: Architectures of Power (Duthely)

What is research?

Research is a creative, nonlinear process. Experienced scholars will tell you that they rarely end up exactly where they thought they would when they first started out! You'll need to give yourself the time to pursue ideas, reconsider ideas in light of new information, and then craft an original, researched argument.

To be successful in college-level research, you will need to make use of the resources and services of the library. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Much scholarship and information is not available freely on the web.  Libraries pool their resources to purchase on your behalf access to quality information sources such as databases, journal collections, and reference resources.
  • Many materials are not available electronically, either because they have not been digitized yet or their original creators do not wish to make them available digitally.
  • Libraries cooperate with one another to lend you items that are not immediately available in your home library.
  • Librarians are experts in the organization of knowledge and can help you find treasures that perhaps you didn't even know existed!

Forming a Research Question

Research is not passive reporting, it is a search for answers. A research question is what drives your research project; it is something that you want to know about your topic and it is something you want to explore and try to answer in your research project. 

Research typically begins with a topic that has piqued your curiosity.  When you're researching a topic, you typically are interested in questions of whowhatwhere and when.

As you learn more about your chosen topic, however, you'll discover that scholars may have different approaches and arguments about the topic, and you'll start to ask your own research questions.  Research questions typically begin with why or how.

When you've selected a research question to explore and are ready to make an argument as to how to answer it, you'll come up with a thesis.

Types of Sources

In academic research, it's important to be able to distinguish between different types of sources. These differences often are contextual, meaning that a single source might fit in different categories depending on how you are using it and in what academic discipline you are writing.

Primary sources are the raw materials of scholarship.

Secondary sources report on or interpret primary sources.

Tertiary sources synthesize and present overviews of primary and secondary sources.

Scholarly sources present sophisticated, researched arguments using both primary and secondary sources and are written by experts.

Popular sources aim to inform or entertain and are intended for a general, non-specialized audience. In academic writing, popular sources most often are analyzed as primary sources.

The BEAM Framework

BEAM is an acronym intended to help students think about the various ways we might use sources when writing a researched argument. Joseph Bizup, an English professor at Boston University, outlined the framework in a 2008 article. The idea has since been refined and adapted by many others.

Beam Model