MUED 8118: Qualitative Research in Arts Education

Keep a research notebook

Keeping a research notebook is an excellent way to save yourself time! This can be as simple as a blank sheet of paper or Google doc. Keeping track of what you searched for, where you searched, and what you found can save you time since you won't accidentally end up re-doing any searching that you've already completed. This is also a great strategy in the event that you'll need to write about your research process - by keeping a step-by-step log, you'll have all of that info at your fingertips!

Some things to keep track of in your research notebook include:

  • An outline/mind map to guide your research
  • Your keywords (also keep track of new keywords you'd like to search for in the future!)
  • The places you searched, like databases, website URLs, etc.
  • The results of your search: Book titles, journal article titles, etc. and what you found in them
  • Ideas, questions, and lists of things you need to find or do
    • Keeping track of these in one place ensures that they won't get lost or forgotten!
    • TIP: Don't erase anything, just cross it out; you may need to revisit an idea
  • A running references list/bibliography of your sources 

Get some background info

Narrow your topic

Clarifying your research questions and narrowing your topic is one of the toughest thing about beginning a new research project. Some of the questions that might help you to narrow your topic include:

  • Who is your reader and what would they be interested in learning?
  • How big or small is the scope of your project? How much time do you have to finish it?
  • When thinking about your broad topic, what main ideas or terms would you use to describe it to someone who doesn't know anything about your topic? Ask yourself who, what, where, when, how, and why, and aim to answer these questions using single keywords or short phrases.
  • Create a five-minute outline: Set a timer for five minutes, and don't stop writing until your time is up. Write about what you already know about your topic, what you'd like to know, and what questions you have. After five minutes, organize those notes into an outline or mind map. Update and add to your outline/mind map as you learn more about your topic!

Creating a list of search terms/keywords

Once you’ve chosen a topic for your research, the next thing you’ll need to get started is a few keywords to help you search for background information and to help with finding relevant sources. Try to describe the topic you'd like to explore in 1-2 sentences - what keywords come to mind? 

Aim for making a list of about 6-8 keywords associated with your topic. These can include key composers, performers, genres, names of instruments, or any other words that you think of. These keywords will give you something to start searching for in the resources we discussed in class. 

And don’t be afraid to revise your list of keywords as you go along! The more you learn about your topic, the more refined your keywords will become – which will help you to find additional useful sources as you continue to search.

Tutorial: Creating an effective search strategy

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:
  • Use meaningful keywords to find the best sources
  • Apply search strategies like AND and OR to connect keywords

Tutorial: What is a library database and why should I use one?

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:
  • Identify what a library database is
  • Recognize the two main types of library databases
  • Know why you should use them
  • Understand why searching a library database is different than searching the general internet

Tutorial: Database search tips

Improve your searches! This guide will help you:

  • Apply search modifiers AND, OR, and NOT to your database searches
  • Recognize phrase searching and other advanced search techniques
Last Updated: Nov 3, 2022 11:41 AM