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Throughout your doctoral studies, you will be reading and examining scholarly articles related to your chosen dissertation topic, immersing yourself in ideas, information, and research.
Today, people face a glut of information. A doctoral student is challenged to choose information that is reliable, informative, and scholarly. Accurate information is critical to reaching educated conclusions, making the best choices, and communicating more effectively. But such information is not always readily available, especially in the ever-changing digital information environment. Strong literacy information skills are imperative to searching and evaluating information in a scholarly environment.
The resources you will be asked to find during your courses will primarily be scholarly, peer-reviewed source materials, such as journal articles. Information from non-reviewed sources may be useful for background. However, non-reviewed sources can contain serious errors and often lack depth. Information from a non-reviewed source should be critically evaluated and – as a rule of thumb – should not be cited in scholarly writing. Examples of non-reviewed materials include Wikipedia, magazines, textbooks, self-help books, popular press articles, and websites that appear to be biased regarding a particular controversial issue. Note, however, that the library holds many professionally reviewed encyclopedias that cover general and specific topics. These encyclopedias are often excellent places to begin exploring a topic of interest.
The Northcentral Library has extensive holdings in your field, and our librarians stand ready to help you find what you need. Searching a virtual library, of course, doesn’t involve file cards and browsing stacks of books and articles. Rather, you’ll need to use specific skills to search the library, and to evaluate the information you find. In this activity you will become familiar with how to recognize scholarly sources and how to access appropriate resources in your field of interest within the Northcentral Library.
Activity Resources
Northcentral Information Literacy Tutorial
Northcentral Search like an Expert
Northcentral Finding a Research Topic
Research and Ideas. Harvard Business School Working Knowledge – The Thinking that Leads.
Activity 4 Foundations Feedback Sheet
Skills Builder 1: Information Literacy
Review the Northcentral Information Literacy Tutorial to become familiar with information literacy, and to test your information literacy skills. Keep notes on the important points you discover there; these will be useful both in preparing assignments in this course, and in your other coursework here at Northcentral.
Skills Builder 2: Searching the Library
The Library offers a wealth of databases for you to choose from in finding scholarly information, along with tutorials on how to effectively search these databases (not understanding how to search effectively is a time waster!). Usually, you’ll want to find resources that are up to date, and are available in full text form, not just abstracts.
View the Northcentral Search like an Expert tutorial to find out how to get started in Library searching.
Skill Builder 3: Thinking About an Area of Research Interest
One of the key tasks you will accomplish fairly early in your career as a doctoral Student is identifying a topic area that you will become an expert in.
A research area or topic is a specific area of interest in the field of business. There are thousands and thousands of topics in business. For example technology and organizational structure, leadership and ethical decision making, issues of access, privacy and security in healthcare systems, recruitment and management of mobile workers, social media and workforce productivity, and cyber terrorism. The list is endless. Topics are usually carved out by the collective interests of researchers and theorists. Northcentral Faculty Mentors in the School of Business and Technology Management have expertise in many areas, for example, in supply chain optimization, gender issues in the workplace, aerospace and aviation security, transportation and logistics, bio terrorism, entrepreneurship, consumer behavior, public health, corporate strategy, computer security, homeland security, medical records, FEMA and forensics.
PhD Students will identify a research-based response found in the literature that will newly contribute to knowledge and theory in their topic area. Whereas professional or applied doctoral Students will write a dissertation that demonstrates their ability to not only evaluate, synthesize, and apply knowledge in their topic area, but also inform practice.
You have plenty of time to explore topic areas, and while some of you may have an idea of what you may want to study, others of you may have no idea. While at this stage there is no expectation that you arrive with a defined doctoral now is the time to begin exploring topics that interest you. The sooner you identify a topic, the more time you have to read in the area and learn about the issues, debates, unresolved questions, theories, problems, challenges, and even research methods and designs used by researchers in the area.
A topic area is not the same as a research study for a PhD or an application of knowledge for a professional doctorate. Dissertation studies and projects are done within topic areas. So, if you have an idea for a study or project you want to do, put it away for now and read the literature broadly related to the idea. For example, if you are interested in how depression affects workplace effectiveness, start by reading the broad literature on depression.
For information about current business topics, explore the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge site: Research and Ideas. Havard Business School Working Knowledge – The Thinking that Leads.
And see this library tutorial for tips and guidance on selecting a topic:
Northcentral Finding a Research Topic.
Main Task: Evaluate Library Databases and Resources for use in Research
For this activity you will conduct a library search for resources in your area of professional or research interest (Homeland Security Leadership). Locate three peer-reviewed journal articles, one book chapter, and one scholarly resource (website or other resource). Then, prepare a brief paper on your library search and your results. First, duplicate the chart below, fill it out for each resource include the following:
• Appropriate citation (APA form) for the resource you discovered.
• Name of the database you used.
• Keywords you used.
• Any search limiters such as full text, date, peer-reviewed that you used.
• A note about your skills at this point in using the database from which you accessed the resource; what do you still need to practice?
Then, conclude your assignment with some general remarks that comment on:
• How useful was each database for you?
• What important journals, key scholars, or new ideas did you discover from your search?
• How might a library search spark new ideas? As you searched did you find new ideas or new directions for your search? Did the direction your search take you surprise you?
Length: Completed chart and 1 page reflection paper
Your paper should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts that are presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards. Be sure to adhere to Northcentral University’s Academic Integrity Policy.

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