Dom Taylor, MA, MLIS

Peace & Conflict Studies, Philosophy, Catholic Studies, and Religion Librarian



RLGN 2222 -The Supernatural in Popular Culture

March 26, 2019


Julian: "Is the bank open on Saturdays?"​​

Getting around the world means you have to trust people. The question is how much trust you should give and why. This depends on context.

Me: "Yes!"

Julian: "How do you know??"

Me: "I was there last year, I think."

Julian: "Do you actually know? If I don't make a payment, I'll lose my apartment"

Me: "Oh...I don't actually know. Let's check online."

Snow day

Julian: "Looks like a blizzard out. Are classes cancelled?"​​

Me: "Definitely!"

Julian: "How do you know??"

Me: "I looked out the window."

Me: "I checked the university homepage."



Citation as a responsibility

Academic integrity is important,


there are other equally important reasons to cite.

Citing as a "game"

  • Expressing yourself meaningfully requires shared rules.
  • This is like a board game/ sport. You can modify or disregard some rules, but there comes a point when you are no longer playing the original game.

3 important "moves" in the citation game

Following the citation game gives you some abilities by allowing for certain moves:

  1. Duty/Obligation: 2-way obligation. If you take others' ideas seriously (by citing them), then people will take your ideas seriously.

  2. Licence: Like a license to drive, but this is a license to put an idea forward/critique an idea. This license comes in different strengths. This strength is directly tied to the strength of the idea you are citing and how you explain it.

  3. Legitimacy: How seriously people will take your claims depends on how well you use your licenses. The better (and more) connections you have to other ideas, the more likely people will take your ideas seriously.

Vertical (close reading)

Lateral (looking at context)



Determining the meaning of the text as a standalone document. This includes:

  • Looking up definitions of complex terms, jargon, and non-English words (e.g., Latin)
  • Assessing  the internal consistency and coherence of the text. Are there contradictory facts or arguments? Are there leaps in the logic of the text (e.g., non sequitur)?
  • Identifying clear indications of meaning (e.g., a thesis statement, arguments, or beliefs)
  • Working out the structure of the text

Source: Wineburg, S., & McGrew, S. (2017). Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 3048994). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from

Determining the meaning of the text through its context. This includes:

  • Reviewing secondary sources cited/footnoted in the original text. Is the original source's interpretation accurate ? Do the secondary sources provide more meaning?
  • Reading commentary, analysis, and criticism of the original text
  • Evaluating the historico-political context of the original text and its author(s). 

2 ways of reading texts


Leverage your knowledge of how trust and citation work:

  1. A good article or book is usually based on (i.e., cites) other good articles/books (authors use 2 way obligation). In this way, a good article lets you look into the past.
  2. Unless it has been very recently published, the article/book you cite has likely been cited by others (authors attempt to create legitimacy and others use that legitimacy for their own work).In this way, a good article lets you look into the future of the original article. GoogleScholar can help with finding who has cited the article you are reading.


Although you will adapt this to your own needs and preferences over time, this is a good workflow to start with:

  1. Identify a broad topic that interests you, do some basic research, and narrow down your topic to a specific question. Narrowing can take multiple tries: (A) X-Files + Fandom--->(B)X-File + X-Philes---> (C) X-Files + X-Philes + gender-->(D) "Dana Scully" + Fandom + catholicism OR "Dana Scully" + Fandom+gender.
  2. Formulate a focused research question/thesis: neither too broad nor too narrow. This is tricky and will take practice. You can start by answering "who," "what," "why," "when," "where," and "how" questions. Set some parameters (e.g., dates, geographic location, demographic information), but be ready to change them. 

Workflow (cont.)

3. From your question/narrow topic, identify keywords, including synonyms and related concepts that you can use in your search. Example: depending on the context "Captain Marvel," "Ms. Marvel," and "Carol Danvers" can be synonyms or at least related. Therefore, it is important to search a set of related/synonymous terms  

4. Combine keywords and phrases into search queries:  Try many different searches and combinations of terms. Expect that it will take at least 10 different searches to get a good feel for what is out there. Use AND, OR, brackets + quotations (""). More on this below. To start, use our basic search engine OR GoogleScholar. Note: if you use GoogleScholar look up your results in our search engine to see if it's peer-reviewed!

5. Use our search engine to do a subject search. More on this below.

6. Keep track of interesting articles!


Iterative thesis building + research


1. Identify the keywords in your research question/thesis. These are generally only the nouns in your question.

2. Identify synonyms and related terms for each keyword/noun.

3. Build a research query that combines these using OPERATORS (see below)

Iteration and experimentation:

Find and refer to sources as you are developing your research question/thesis. Mine them for terminology and/or ways to enhance your topic. This will impact the keywords and even the scope of your thesis.


AND, OR, (), *, "", + Limiters





A search for x-files AND x-phile* will find results that contain both terms and will exclude results that only have one of the two terms.

A search for x-files OR x-phile* will find results that contain either of the search terms. This will generate more results. Use OR to combine synonyms.


How AND/OR work

 (), *, "", + Limiters



Sample keyword search

General/undeveloped topic: How is gender related to the paranormal and/or expressed in X-files fandom communities?

Basic scoping search: x-files AND fandom

Topic keywords: X-files + X-philes + Scully+ Gender+ Feminism+ fandom/fan communities

Basic search query: fandom* AND x-files AND (gender OR scully OR feminism)

Limiters: "peer-reviewed," "articles," and "full-text online" (depending on topic you may want to limit the dates)

Create a focused research question

Subject search

In your results screen go to the "Advanced search."

Journal issue search

If you find a relevant and/or intriguing article, sometimes it is worth looking to see if it's part of a "special issue" dedicated to your topic.

Going back to the "keyword search," the 5th result is an "introduction" about the X-Files, which probably means the whole issue is about the X-files.

Journal search by subject

Sometimes it is useful to look up relevant journals by subject AND THEN search within those journals. Go to "Advanced search" and limit material type to "Journals."  

Online Resources

The Library Search has a citation function in the listing. You can also use ZotBib citation generator. These can handle multiple citation formats, including APA, but they aren't perfect, so verify the information using one of the following:

  1. Purdue OWL (reference list and in-text) and/or CitationFox (reference list only).
  2. UM APA 1 pager (easy to use)

Contact info

Dom Taylor


phone: 204.474.9184

book an appointment

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RLGN 2222 : Research Workshop

By Dom Taylor

RLGN 2222 : Research Workshop

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