Some days I have ideas. Some days my ideas are absolute genius.
Here's my latest one: in a few weeks, all of the Public Speaking classes are coming to Hale Library for Library Days. We explore basic research concepts like moving from a topic ("Word of mouth marketing is like the flu") to keywords that can be searched in a database--and how to discover new keywords when the first ones you try don't work. I have a great snowball fight analogy that I'll share if you ask me.We also play with some of the relevant databases (Credo, CQ Researcher, ProQuest Research Library, maybe LexisNexis) and demonstrate the awesomeness that is the Get It button and the Cite This link available for many articles in many of our databases.
OK, here's the genius idea: you need to approach a research topic like you are a detective on a t.v. show (I've never seen a detective work in real life, so won't presume to say this is how they work.) That is, you are solving one case, but you will be interviewing a lot of different people to learn as much information as you can because the prosecutor and/or judge won't just take your word on it...you need evidence. If you have ever caught an episode of Law & Order, or The Closer, or The Wire, or Veronica Mars, or ...you get the point... then you know that t.v. detectives never ask everyone the same question, because everyone they talk to has a different perspective or relationship to the crime/victim/suspect.
Your case is something like, "Why having a GTA with an accent can benefit your education." (That's right, let's take that age-old gripe about teachers with accents and turn it on its head.) You'll definitely want information about the benefits of diversity or multiculturalism in the new world economy. So you're going to search in databases like ProQuest Research Library or Diversity Database Suite for information about (diversity or multiculturalism) AND higher education AND learning. You'll also want information about why people don't like having teachers they can't understand, so you might do searches in the same databases, or some of our education databases about international AND graduate teaching assistants.
As you read through the articles, you're going to find new terms to search (we call this "mining an article") you are also going to find new perspectives: perhaps a research study that you wanted to read more about, or a program at another university that sounds intriguing. This is just like on Law & Order when Detectives Green* and Lupo interview one witness and that witness says, "I saw the back of the guy's head before he pocketed the radishes, but my buddy Chwen saw him look at the bananas first." And then the Detectives go talk to Chwen and ask him about the radishes and the bananas.
You're not going to ask all of your sources (databases) the same question because they may all have different perspectives on case, and as you learn more information, you're going to have different ways to ask the question. This can be really fun (honestly, I do it for a living, it is fun!) But it can also be confusing as you find yourself looking up from an article about the grade school system in Saudi Arabia, wondering how you got there. My solution is to write down my primary question and have it in front of me the entire time. While I may refocus it a bit, or decide to attack it from another angle, looking at it periodically reminds me of my purpose.
Now, here's where I ask for your help. What I would love to do is have a montage of detectives interviewing people about the same case. Not long, 3 minutes maybe? Just enough to get the idea about reformulating questions, building on previous interviews and so forth. I've done a few preliminary searches in YouTube, but haven't hit gold. Anybody out there have and idea of where I can search or already know of the perfect montage?
*Yes, I know Detective Green isn't on Law & Order any more, but he's still my favorite.