The Research process A Candler MTS Conversation

Research about Research

1. Buy a Book

2. Journal about the Process

3. Learn from those you read

“You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about... You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you. . . The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart with the discussion still vigorously in progress.” -Kenneth Burke

So, how do I start?

A research project does not begin with investigation of the sources, but it begins with an investigation of the investigator.
  • What do I know about this topic?
  • How do I know what I know about this topic?
  • What do I think about this topic?
  • How would I turn "I think" into "I know"?
  • What don't I know about this topic?
Do not begin the "research" without knowing what you are looking For, why you are looking for it, and who you are going to tell about it

Do you have a Research Topic or a REsearch Question?

  1. Does it have an answer?
  2. Does it have an answer that has not been discovered yet?
  3. Does it have an answer that an audience believes is worth finding?
  4. Do I care about the answer?
  5. Does it have an answer that you can find given the constraints of time, resources, and skills?

Using Aristotle to Move from a Topic to a Question

Consider Definition
  • Genus: How does a given topic fit within a broader category?
  • Division: Are there specific parts or sections of a topic?
Use Comparison
  • Consider similarities between two topics/persons/works/ideas
  • Consider differences between two topics/persons/works/ideas
Explore Relationships
  • What are the causes or effects of a particular topic/person/work/idea?
  • Are there antecedents or consequences of a particular topic/person/work/idea?
Examine Circumstances
  • Consider if something is possible or impossible
  • Consider potential past or future scenarios
Rely on Testimony
  • Look to authorities
  • Consider statistics, laws, etc.

The librarians and your professor are going to tell you that your research question is too broad (I promise). How can you narrow it?

Narrowing by Time: Can you Consider a particular year/era?

What was Luther's view of the Jews?

What was Luther's view of the Jews in the 1540s?

How does Luther's view of the Jews change between 1523 and 1543?

Narrowing by Text: Can you consider a particular Work or Section of a Work instead of an Entire corpus?

What is Paul Ricoeur's view of "the self"?

What is Paul Ricoeur's view of "the self" articulated in his Oneself as Another?

In what ways does Ricoeur's view of "the self" change over the lectures published as Oneself as Another?

Narrowing by Theme: Is there one particular aspect or idea that you can focus on?

What is Plato's understanding of virtue in the Symposium?

Which characters in the Symposium represent different understanding of virtue?

How does the Socrates' response to Agathon's speech in Symposium 198a reflect competing philosophical schools' vision of virtue in 4th-century Athens?

Narrowing by Method: How are you planning to discover the answer to this question?

What do the parables in Luke 15 mean for contemporary congregations?

How is the reading of the financial parables of Luke 15 different between wealthy congregations and poor congregations?

What is the difference in frequency of preaching the financial parables of Luke 15 in 10 upper class Atlanta congregations and 10 lower class congregations?

Once you have a research question, you begin the work toward a thesis statement

A well-formed THESIS STATEMENT provides a roadmap to the entire project
  • It makes a claim
  • It posits a perspective
  • Its claim can be defended
  • It defines how you will make the argument
  • It leads to the question, "How do you know that?"

An experiment

Locate the following in the library and provide full, written citations (chicago style)
  • A solvable research question
  • A curated bibliography
  • A tertiary source
  • A secondary source article
  • A secondary source book
  • A secondary source book review
  • A primary source (translation is okay)
  • Group 1: Augustine and neo-Platonism
  • Group 2: Anselm and the atonement
  • Group 3: Erasmus and free will
  • Group 4: Feminist approaches to the gospel of John
  • Group 5: Pope Benedict XVI and women's ordination
Your friendly, neighborhood Pitts librarians:

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