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Developing your topic

Research proposal assignment

Your research proposal is an important step toward writing your final research essay. Your proposal should:

  • introduce your expected area of research and topic
  • identify  some kind of research question
  • show a working bibliography, including both primary and secondary sources

Four steps to choosing your topic and research question

  1. Choose a general topic or area that interests you. (Important!)
  2. Do some preliminary or background research to see how others have discussed that topic.
  3. Ask questions related to your topic. Then ask whether those questions make sense, and if they are worth trying to answer.
  4. Chose one of those questions, refine it, make it clear, focused, and reasonable.

Primary sources

Primary sources usually give us a first-hand account or description of an event witnessed. Primary sources are not just for studying the past; they also help us understand and make meaning from current events.

Common examples of primary sources include: photographs; newspapers; audio recordings (e.g., radio broadcasts); video recordings (e.g., newsreels, films, bystanders); diaries and letters; government or legal records; speeches; autobiographies and memoirs; creative works; and more.


Before you start your search for primary sources check out the following resource. 

When you're ready to jump into current and historical news from Canadian and international sources, I recommend the following:

Secondary sources

Using these sample searches as a starting place, but adapt them for your topic and research needs: 

  • search for other types of resources, not just articles or books
  • add words that describe your specific topic in more detail
  • limit the date range if you want newer (or older) sources
  • add words that define a geography or population (e.g. Alberta, Canadians), or a particular group (e.g., women, men, children, the elderly)
 Original search string Peer-reviewed articles Books/ebooks
 hindu* AND transnationalism link link
 hindu* AND (diaspora OR migration) link link
 hindu* AND (hybridity OR identity) link link
 hindu* AND multicultural* link link
 hindu* AND generation* link link
 hindu* AND adaptat* AND (cultur* OR relig*) link link
 hindu* AND gender link link

You can also check the Resources by Religion: Hinduism section for specific types of resources..

We tend to trust websites published by universities, research groups, governments, and non-profits, but it's always important to evaluate your sources. You can then power up your Google searches with these search tips:

  • site:gc.ca = limits your searches to Government of Canada web domain (example)
  • site:edu = limits your searches to most US universities and colleges (example)
  • allintitle:hindu diaspora canada = words after allintitle: must appear in the title of the page (example)
  • allintext:hinduism practice canada = words after allintext: must appear in the page text (example)

Evaluating your sources

So you plan to use sources you found on the web? 

There are plenty of primary and secondary sources available online, but your job is to separate the good from bad. The CRAAP test helps us check the quality of our sources. This acronym is a reminder of some key questions to ask about your source:

Currency How current is the information you're looking at?
Relevancy Does the information address your research needs? Does it stay on topic?
Authority Is the author an expert? Do they know what they're talking about? How much can you trust the author/publisher responsible for the website?
Accuracy Is the information accurate, and in agreement with other reputable sources? Can you find the same facts elsewhere?
Purpose What is the website's purpose? Is it trying to inform or educate? Or maybe to entertain you or sell you something?

These resources might help you understand what to ask when evaluating the credibility of a source.

Librarian

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Richard Hayman
Contact:
Email: rhayman@mtroyal.ca
Phone: 403.440.8518
Office: EL4441K