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CRJ 650: Independent Study (Ziwei Qi)

Research on Gender Based Violence in Rural Kansas

Steps in the Plan

Before you start searching in earnest:

Brainstorm questions that need to be answered before you can answer your research question. These can be basic questions ranging from definitions, to statistics, or complex questions about competing theories and their applicability to rural Kansas. Not all of the answers can be found in scholarly articles, so use interviews, service websites, and statistics to fill in the gaps. 

  1. Identify the the base information you need
    • How do the experts defining domestic abuse?
    • Does there seem to be a gap in the literature?
    • What kinds of resources are going to be helpful?
    • What kinds of resources are available?
  2. Identify the scholarly conversation.
    • Are there conflicting arguments that I should address?
    • Is there a popular theory that applies to what I am researching?
    • Are there statistics or primary research I can use?
    • Are their studies from other disciplines that talk about domestic abuse that I can use?


Never use one set of search terms and assume you are done. 

Good research on extensive projects rely on multiple search sessions using different search terms.

  1. Multiple questions requires individual research. Base the search terms off the questions you brainstormed in the last step
  2. The more you read about the topic, the more your questions and approach changes. By giving yourself time between each search to read what you have found, you save yourself time in the long run by avoiding researching directions you will not end up using and by identifying all the gaps in your research before you start writing. 

Below is a tutorial on how to create your search terms and combine them to narrow your search for specific resources. Desipte what Google tells us, we only want about 20 great sources that answer our specific questions instead of 2,000 sort of related returns that we will never sort through.

Keep in mind that you may want to search for a scholarly book that provides an overview of domestic violence before you start searching for specific scholarly articles that relate to nuances in the topic. 

Evaluating sources

When looking at an information source, try asking yourself the Five W's

  • Who? Who wrote this? Can you even tell? Are they an authority in this topic? Credentials are important, but first-hand accounts are also important. Most importantly, who stands to benefit if you believe this source?
  • What? What kind of resource is this? Is it an advertisement? Newspaper article? Scholarly research article? Also, what kind of information does it present? Does the content match up with what you already know about this topic? Are there a bunch of advertisements, either related or unrelated to the topic of the article?
  • When? How up to date is the information? And how soon after the event was this published? (We've all seen false reports and misinformation happen shortly after major events like school shootings.) Also, how up to date do you need the information to be? Looking for reviews of classic movies that came out shortly after the cinematic debut versus critical acclaim that came years later can make a big difference.
  • Where? Country of origin?  How different is the information provided by CNN versus BBC versus Al-Jazeera? Also, where is this information in relation to the structure of the website? Is it on the front page? Is it buried?
  • Why? What's the purpose of the source? Is it trying to sell you something? Convince you of something? Also, why are you looking at this source? Entertainment? Medical research? Academic need?

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining that this is one you will use?
  • Is this source appropriate for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    • examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? To inform? Teach? Sell? Entertain? Persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

By scoring each category on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = worst, 10=best possible) you can give each site a grade on a 50 point scale for how high quality it is!

45 - 50 Excellent | 40 - 44 Good | 35 - 39 Average | 30 - 34 Borderline Acceptable | Below 30 - Unacceptable

Avoid Fake News