Academic Literacies and Research Skills
for Social Science Graduate Students

In this section you will find over-arching module summaries and key learning outcomes for each S2S module. Each module aligns with one or more general research phases within social science research. Click on a module title below to link directly to the module.

View the Module Guide as well as the Facilitator's Guide for tips on completing the modules, and information on the features of the modules. You may also wish to view the References and Permissions for works cited within each module.

Pre-Module: Collecting Citations and Creating Bibliographies

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
This pre-module will support your work across the other S2S modules. In this pre-module, you will become familiar with a number of tools to collect, organize, annotate, and cite your sources in ways that best suit your workflow.

  • Identify disciplinary citation styles and software practices
  • Identify personal citation needs and software preferences
  • Assess and select an appropriate citation tool
  • Import citations and generate a bibliography

Module 1: Thinking like a Researcher

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
The landscape of academic research and publishing has become increasingly dynamic and complex. Technological and communication networks, as well as other personal learning supports, together shape our research culture and how we create and share our work with others inside and outside our fields. This module will help you position yourself as a researcher in the information ecosystem and identify your key support networks.

Research Phase: Inquiry and Exploration

  • Assess your values and beliefs as a scholar
  • Identify research support services at your institution
  • Outline the components of the research process

Module 2: Defining Your Research

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
Strong research begins with asking good questions. This module will help you to develop a question-driven approach for defining a potential research topic, and to engage in an iterative and non-linear process to refine your topic. You will map your research interests and topics, refine and revise research questions, and investigate models to help pursue solutions to different types of researchable questions. Articulating your research questions in this way will help you design a systematic approach to searching the research literature.

Research Phase: Inquiry and Exploration

  • Investigate potential research topics, drawing on discipline-specific sources
  • Generate a table of key concepts that describes your research topic
  • Develop a habit of reflective practice and collaborative information seeking

Module 3: Introductory Search Techniques for Research

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
 Scholars approach research strategically by selecting the best search tools, developing search vocabularies, designing effective searches, and analyzing search results carefully. What makes your search for information strategic? In this module, you will identify your own approaches to information gathering and gain a critical perspective on common search tools and practices.

Research Phases: Inquiry and Exploration / Investigation and Organization

  • Document the process you typically follow to find information for your research
  • Identify a range of source types relevant to graduate research in your discipline
  • Apply advanced Google Scholar search techniques

Module 4: Advanced Search Techniques for Research

OverviewBy the end of this module, you will:
Research is an evolving process based on continued reading and evaluation of the literature in your area of interest. How do you situate your research question within the literature of your field? In this module, you will explore both discipline-specific and multidisciplinary information sources, information retrieval strategies to access the research published in these sources, as well as evaluation criteria to help you determine the usefulness of potential sources. We will also consider the importance of information organization in the research process.

Research Phase: Investigation and Organization

  • Explore vocabulary used to describe your research topic
  • Investigate advanced search strategies across a range of research tools
  • Organize information sources and citations systematically

Module 5: Discovering Grey Literature

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
Despite easy access to web and database resources, there are many types of information that are not indexed in library databases or easily discoverable by random web searching. This module will help you discover pathways to what is known as “grey literature” - an often unexplored and diverse set of information sources that can be especially useful in social sciences research.

Research Phase: Investigation and Organization

  • Investigate sources of relevant grey literature
  • Identify pathways to theses and dissertations
  • Differentiate among starting points for government information
  • Compare resources that provide access to data and statistics

Module 6: Understanding Design and Authority in Research

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
This module provides an introductory exploration of social science research methodologies and their relationship to research questions and their purpose. You will practise creating and applying evaluation criteria to assess approaches to research, and explore how authority confers meaning to information, yet is always constrained by its culture and contexts. Finally, you will consider the role of a theoretical and/or critical framework in research design.

Research Phase:  Analysis and Evaluation

  • Identify the main attributes and components of research designs in the social sciences
  • Evaluate the quality of research studies, using specific criteria
  • Understand how contexts and culture shape the authority that confers value to information
  • Apply theoretical and conceptual frameworks to research

Module 7: Publishing and Research Impact

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
How do you measure the impact of research in traditional contexts? Members of scholarly communities determine the value of research by its rigour and contribution to established knowledge. In this module, you will analyze research publication formats and their impact on how knowledge is produced and consumed. You will also identify the key measures with which scholarly research communities evaluate new contributions to knowledge.

Research Phases: Analysis and Evaluation / Creation and Communication

  • Evaluate publication formats and delivery methods available to scholars
  • Understand the publication processes for scholarly and peer-reviewed materials
  • Apply knowledge of metrics and criteria to determine the value of scholarly works

Module 8: Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Scholar

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
Scholars recognize that information has value beyond a single dimension. They also have an awareness that legal, socio-economic, and cultural contexts influence information production and dissemination. In this module, you will learn about your rights to your creative output and the legal concepts in Canada that impact scholarly dissemination and communication. You will also learn about the ethical expectations and protocols in scholarly communities.

Research Phase: Creation and Communication

  • Identify and interpret the different ways in which information can hold value
  • Interpret your rights as an author and how different publication methods impact them
  • Identify ethical standards required for scholarly research and publication

Module 9: Joining the Scholarly Conversation

OverviewBy the end of this module you will:
How can scholars share their knowledge and work? Scholarly conversations are evolving and ongoing, and take place in established venues as well as in informal and social settings. When contributing to the discussion, it is crucial that you develop a professional profile and act with integrity. In this module you will learn ways to join the scholarly discussion through the creation of a research persona, adding your unique contributions to existing bodies of knowledge.

Reseach Phase: Creation and Communication

  • Identify venues and forms of scholarly communication within your discipline
  • Critique and manage your professional persona
  • Explore how your research and knowledge may be mobilized