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The Canon and the Archive (SPAN 5220/7220): Research Process

Research Process Plan

Research process: 1) develop your research question and topic; 2) Brainstorm keywords and related terms; 3) Find background information for your topic; 4) Use search tools to find articles, books, or what you need; 5) Review your literature and evaluate what you found; 6) Organize your references in a citation management tool; 7) Organize, outline and write; 8) Cite and credit the intellectual property of others. Remember: Research is non linear, it can shift, be flexible, go back on your steps, adapt your topic, talk to experts on similar topics and value feedback

Research Topic

Your topic should facilitate a critical approach that integrates some of the theories covered in your course.

Your research topic may be born through different channels:

  • Read your syllabus carefully and pay attention to a topic covered in class that you found interesting and do not know much about.
    • You may choose a topic that is related to the course's central theme and is of interest to you.
  • Expand on a subject that is highlighted in one of the texts you read about social and political activism and that you found relevant.
  • Cover a topic (from your own optic) that was suggested in one of the books or articles you read.
  • Browse online media to gather topic ideas.
  • Browse background sources to gather topic ideas.
Sometimes topics change as you progress in your research process, which is normal.

Research Question

Your research question will be related to your topic. This question usually answers a matter not covered by previous scholarship.

Developing Research Questions: Your Purpose

Consider where your questions will lead you. Will your question lead you to:

  • Compare and contrast
    • How is a theme presented in the text you chose differently from the optic considered in a text covered in classes?
    • How is author X's contribution different from author Y's?
      • Example: how are the pedagogical ideals of Unamuno's Amor y Pedagogía different or alike to the ideals of Ferre i Guardia's La Escuela Moderna?
    • How is the same topic covered by different authors?
      • Example: How is the topic of female identity covered by Burgos and Nelken?
  • Associate your topic with another 
    • How did a topic happen in relation to another topic?
  • Interpret the state of your topic
    • Explain the significance of X and how you can measure this significance
      • Example: what is the significance of the historical and sociological component of the literary text you selected?
  • Connect a text with a historical problem
    • How does a text relates to other texts o develops a similar topic?
  • Argue for a particular stance
    • Present opposing views and argue in favor or against a view


See Strategy: Formulating Questions


Background Information

Background sources are beneficial at the beginning stages of your research process. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and even Wikipedia are traditional background sources that we usually do not cite in our final project. These sources will give us ideas for research topics, keywords and even provide further information that may be useful.

Keywrods and Related Terms

Example taken from the reading: The Ordinariness of the Archive

Keyword Related Terms
Archive literalism: centers of storage, depository, repository;  mnemotechnological invention
Authors Jacqueline Rose, Michel Foucalt, Even Derrida
Access control over access, private archives, royal memory (Le Goff), totalitarian archive, modern notion of the public
memory status of the past, preservation
credibility representation, interpretation, questions of identity, evidence, authenticity

Bilingual Search Samples

  • archives AND Foucault AND identity
  • teoría AND archivo AND representacion*
  • teoría AND canon literario NOT music*
  • Escuela racionalista OR enseñanza racionalista
  • La Rampa AND derechos mujer AND independencia económica
  • La Rampa AND sociedad patriarchal OR feminismo OR modernismo
  • Rancière AND Intellectual emancipation OR Enforced stultification
  • Pío Baroja AND pesimismo AND anticlericalismo


Exercise: Contempla argumentos originales acerca de la producción cultural y literaria de la primera parte del siglo XX.

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