Hi there, ‘The Doctor’ here, back to offer you some more suggestions on how to improve your grades and get you a better degree!

This week’s topic...

This week we’re going to be looking at finding sources. This is a problem that many students have, especially when you start to write longer pieces such as dissertations.

The main concerns...

The problem is that it is all too easy to follow the familiar route of just sticking to the basic reading list but think about it: everyone has been given the same list to follow so how is your research going to stand out and be original?

In other words, how are you going to make your mark?

Starting out...

Of course, you need to start out with the basic list, if you don’t do that you’ll be missing the most important scholars in your field. The main thing is that this should just be a starting point.

Don’t limit yourself to what has been given to you, really outstanding students – which is what you know you can be – are like ‘education entrepreneurs’: they look at what exists and think how they can go further and better.

Moving on...

So, after you have thoroughly read through your reading list, move on to look at how these important thinkers compiled their research.

Take a look at the bibliography at the end of the book (sometimes at the end of each chapter) and make a note of any texts that you think might be useful to you. (These books are available to everyone so it is definitely not cheating, by the way, just remember to reference carefully.)

You’ll probably find that it is a good idea to look at how these scholars have used the books, too, so trace the list of notes back and see how they put other people’s work together with their own, giving a totally new perspective.

Building your argument...

Using sources in this way not only gives you new ideas but also expands the choices you have in terms of your own existing ideas.

What I mean by this is that you start to look at the information that you have already used before in a different way when you look at how someone else views the same topic.

For example, if you were writing about how the media functions in society, you would find a great many ideas that would be different from your own. Not only that but each of these ideas would have been researched and written about and the book that finally comes to you is the result of years of reading what other people think.

So, by building sources in this way, you are also building ideas and new ways of thinking: two gains for the effort of one: like your very own BOGOF!

Soon, you’ll have a whole library of sources which will build on and from each other and to which you can return time and again. Be sure to organise your findings carefully so you know what material you have found that other people wrote - and make sure it stays separate from your own notes. When you use any of the material you have found, you'll need to provide a reference - whether you're directly quoting from it, paraphrasing or just mentioning the ideas that are contained within that particular source. This is very important and failing to do this can lead to an accusation of plagiarism.

I’ll be back soon with some more ideas for you, until then ... happy reading!

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