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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 log in to your account and click on the pushpin to save and keep the records as long as you want.

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.

How to Search 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. This research guide on UC Library Search explains the basic search strategies in the UCLA Library catalog.

Searching for Articles in Journals

There are several ways to search for journal articles. You can start with UC Library Search, using the Articles, Books and more option, which searches all the databases the UCLA Library subscribes to. Or you can go to a specific database, such as APA PsycINFO, Academic Search Complete, PubMed, etc.

In either case, start with a keyword search using words relevant to your topic. When you see some articles that look interesting, click on the title to see the complete citation. If there are subject terms or descriptors, click on those that seem related to your topic to get other articles on the subject.

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