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Advanced Research Methods

Research advice for upper division undergraduates and graduates in the social sciences and humanities.

Looking for a Research Topic

Searching for books and articles can help you to find a research topic. Look for books in the UCLA Library Catalog and for articles in article databases.

Search for titles in the Library catalog about topics that you like, topics that you found interesting in a class, or topics that you would like to read more about.

Look at what aspects of these topics are treated in published books. If you find something interesting, go to the stacks and look into the book or check it out from the library. Do you agree with the author? Would you want to go in this direction further and find something new? Do you disagree with the author? Would you want to write a paper why? Do you think that there are aspects that are not treated by these books? Would you want to write your paper on those aspects?

Did you find a promising topic? Discuss it with your classmates or instructor.

How to find articles for your topic? Look up an article database that accumulates materials about your discipline (go to Find databases by subject or one of the Library research guides).

Building up a Bibliography, Reference Sources

This is the necessary information  about a book or article in a bibliography:

  • author's name
  • title of the publication (and the title of the article if it's a journal, newspaper, magazine or encyclopedia)
  • date of publication
  • the place of publication of a book
  • the publishing company of a book
  • the volume number of a journal, newspaper, magazine
  • the issue number of a journal, newspaper, magazine
  • the page number(s)

If you found the books on the UCLA Library Catalog, you can use the My Bookbag menu item to save and keep the records as long as you want.

If you found the books on Melvyl, you can save and keep the records on your lists. In order to create and maintain lists, you have to open an account by clicking on Sign in in the right.

How to Find a Book

Books that deal with the topic of this course can be found in the following libraries of UCLA:

  • Powell Library
  • Young Research Library – research collections in the social sciences and humanities
  • Arts Library – collections in the arts, architecture, performing arts
  • Music Library – collections in music

The library map shows the exact location of these libraries.

Basic Searches in the Catalog

The UCLA Library catalog includes records of all kinds of library materials (except for films) held in the libraries listed above as well as other UCLA libraries. A tutorial explains the basic search strategies in the UCLA Library catalog.

More Advanced Searches in the Catalog

Most of the records in the catalog have subject headings indicating the topic of the book, periodical, etc. Subject headings are the best search terms for more advanced searching.

How to Find Articles

To look for a specific journal or an article of which you know the citation...

To find articles on a topic...

Go to one or more of the article databases.

Some databases contain the full text of the articles, others only bibliographic information (author, title, subject etc.). Almost every database that contains only bibliographic information has a link, called UC-eLinks, to either the full text of the article or to a record in the catalog, if the library has a print copy. If there is no online version and the library does not have a copy, UC-eLinks will also let you request a copy from another library (interlibrary loan).

UC-eLinks logo 

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

Documents, books, pictures, objects produced by the person of your study or at the time of your topic.

Types of primary sources:

  • diaries, letters, autobiographies, official documents, etc.
  • novels, short novels, poetry, drama, music, paintings, other art work produced at the time of the topic studied
  • objects, artifacts produced at the time of the topic studied

Secondary Sources

Works that analyse primary sources, the person(s), or the period of time of the topic studied.

Scholarly and Popular Works

Scholarly book or article? Popular book or article? What is the difference?

Scholarly Works 

  • written by experts, scholars of academic disciplines
  • assume a certain knowledge of the subject from the reader
  • use of jargon, statistics, in some disciplines formal argumentation, use of sometimes complicated scholarly language
  • intention: produce new knowledge of the subject
  • reference to works published by other scholars
  • bibliography, footnotes/endnotes

Popular Works

  • written most often by journalists or writers 
  • targeted audience: great public
  • does not assume knowledge of the subject from the reader
  • intention: entertain, summarize information, provide news
  • simple language
  • lack of long bibliography, footnotes/endnotes