Multidisciplinary research is much like research in a specific discipline, only you are going to use multiple resources that can sometimes have differing categorization schema, methodologies, and discipline specific vocabulary. Here are some tips that can help you navigate through your research:
1. What kinds of information are you looking for? It usually helps to think about what kinds of information you are hoping to find ahead of time. Are you looking for case studies or just a general introduction to something? Does it have to be recent, say within the past 10 years, or can it be older than that? Does it have to be scholarly or peer reviewed? Books and articles or just articles? Being able to think about these kinds of questions ahead of time will help you narrow your search.
2. Choosing the Right Resources. Different resources can help with different information needs. Depending on the parameters of an assignment, sometimes it's useful to find books on your topic and sometimes it's more useful to find journal articles. More often you will use a combination of both books and articles. Also, using a multidisciplinary database vs. a subject specific database can change the kinds of results you get. If you know you are looking for original psychology research on a particular topic you are going to have better results using a psychology specific database.
3. Using the built-in tools available in every resource. Every resource you use will have some built-in tools that will help you with your research. Books have indexes and tables of contents to help, databases have limiters, as well as vocabulary or subject suggestions. These tools can help you create better search strategies, and can help you narrow or expand your results.
4. Choosing Search Terms. Every discipline will have its own language or vocabulary for examining a topic, and every database will also have a specific way of categorizing information. Coming up with alternative search term or strategies will help you find the most relevant articles. It's often helpful to keep a log of different terms that you have tried, and which of those terms have yielded the best results and which have not. Also, it useful to look at the readings you have had in class and note the terms being used to describe something. Also, you can use the built in tools within the databases to help you think of other terms.
5. Follow the Citation Trail. If you find one really good resource, or know of a scholar that has an expertise in a specific area, you can use a bibliography or works cited page in the back of an article or book to help you find other, relevant resources.
6. It's OK not to find the "perfect article". Students are often looking for the perfect article that says exactly what they want to say. Actually, it's pretty rare to find that article, and, believe it or not, you don't want to! What you will want to do is pull in relevant information from different resources.
7. Seek Help. When you have spent some time working on a topic and you seem to be hitting a wall, ask for help! There are librarians available from 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM Monday-Thursday, and 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM on Fridays to help you with your research.
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