Master Log 04: Collecting Literature

and how weird connections can create fantastic ideas

In June I will have to hand in my Master thesis and final project. Here I keep a diary on my progress and show how certain techniques are applicable in non-academic life.

Now that my topic is a little bit clear, I have started to collect literature. I use two tools for that: Google Scholar and my university’s library catalogue. But before that, I made a list on paper with all terms that could relate to my topic.

Break it down

I broke my research question into pieces and wrote down the main terms. For those I collected all synonyms, subtopics and superordinate concepts I could think of.

For multimedia journalism I thought of alternative journalism, interactive journalism, online journalism, convergent journalism, then all forms of multimedia (text, audio, video, photos, infographics). Related to that term are social media and mojo (mobile journalist). Further related words are reporter, multimedia presentation, newspaper, and so on.

You get the point. It is merely brainstorming, really. I wrote down everything that came to mind, even the weirdest thing.

Combination is Key

Now the secret is to feed Google Scholar with these terms, but not all at once. You need to combine them with each other. I searched for multimedia journalism alone first, then combined it with other words. You will see what works and what will not. And soon you will find articles appearing over and over again. Those might be helpful because they entail several of your keywords. You might also find articles that have terms in their headlines and abstracts which you did not think of but which could be appropriate for you, too.

The weirder, the merrier

If you need to come up with an idea – which hardly works if you mostly need it – try funny combinations. Isn’t is a fancy business model to combine a hairdresser with a coffee shop or a book store with a washing salon or a flower shop with design clothes? Get crazy and combine and the outcome will burst of creativity.

Not all things work out, of course, just as not all literature will be useful. So be selective and only take what you will use. But then have fun!

So what are you combining today? Salmon and peanut butter? Running and reading? Plato and Michael Jackson? Let me know in the comments!

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