Processes of study in the arts and humanities
Processes of study in the arts and humanities

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Processes of study in the arts and humanities

8.6 Research skills

This kind of work teaches some very valuable skills:

  • how to set about an enquiry

  • how and where to find source material and information

  • how to make your own investigations

  • strategic planning

  • time management

  • cutting corners and being pragmatic

  • analysing and interpreting primary and secondary source material

  • forming your own conclusions

  • writing clearly and concisely when you have a lot of very varied material to present

  • making a convincing case.

You need to approach a project with care and allow yourself time to develop these skills. And you will need all the help you can get, especially if you are studying as a distance student. So start your project work early, seek your tutor's advice at every stage and study carefully any ‘project guidance’ material that is offered. Above all, be modest in your aims and take very seriously all deadlines for different stages of your work, for project outlines and draft reports.

Key points

When you undertake your own enquiries:

  • don't be too ambitious at the outset: define a narrowly focused question which you can investigate fully in the time available

  • make a timetable for your work and stick to all deadlines; start early and allow plenty of time for each project stage (especially writing the report)

  • in your report show why your investigation matters and what it contributes to your discipline or subject-area; include analysis and explanation as well as description of your work

  • try to achieve different things at each draft stage

  • if in doubt about source material, ask your tutor or a librarian

  • if in despair, don't suffer in silence; get in touch with your tutor and other students, or with anyone who is prepared to listen.

When it is successful, this kind of work is a great opportunity to explore your own particular interests. In spite of the time it takes, it is all-absorbing and very rewarding. It helps you really get ‘inside’ the subject you are studying.

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