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University Library

LIBS 320B: Science and Society

This guide will help students in the Hutchins Core B seminar with links and helpful information about conducting research.

What is the scholarly conversation?

When you begin a research project, you are stepping into a scholarly conversation. Whatever your topic, researchers have been talking about it for a long time. The first thing you need to do is understand what the conversation is and what people are saying. 

Scholars and researchers engage in this conversation formally, through conference presentations, articles, and books, and increasingly on social media and the open web. Different people write and talk about the same topic from different perspectives. Your job is to put it all together in a way that will make sense for your audience. You need to find the different ways that people have talked about your topic and find out where they agree and where they disagree, and what you can learn from all of the different perspectives. 

So, how do you find out who the speakers and writers are in the conversation about your topic? There are a few different ways to enter into the conversation. 

First, think about what you've read and discussed in class related to your topic. Who are the authors of the articles or books you've read? What else have these authors published? Who did they cite? 

You also want to be aware of key words and phrases. Scholars often use specialized language to talk about their research. For example, the phrase "temporary insanity" isn't used in legal research; scholars instead read about the "insanity defense." 

Visit the other pages in this guide to find out how to find more information about your topic and continue the conversation.