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Methods and Materials for South/Southeast Asian Studies: Research Design

Introduction to methods, materials, and recent scholarship in the humanities and social sciences within South and Southeast Asian Studies.

Basics of Research Design


Research Design and Working with Librarians

You might have heard the phrase “research cycle” before. While not exactly a linear process, we might model such a process as follows:

As you might expect, the first step is the selection of a research topic. But, this is not as cut and dry as it may seem. In fact, a lot of thought will go into any major project, based off of the researchers own interests, major trends in her field, and a review of the relevant literature to understand where research on her general topic currently stands. In this first stage, you’ll move from a general interest, say film and movies, to a more specific interest, say, the expression of identity in the Bengali film industry.


After you narrow down a topic and get a sense of where research currently stands and where you might want to go, you can start to figure out what holes, of lacunae, exist in research so far. You might ask, Why did the Bengali film industry pursue a more realistic genre and reject the musical styles of Bombay? Now you have a topic and specific question. Why does the question matter? Well, now you have something to answer! And we discussed in the previous modules, now that you have a question you can begin to think about what you would need to learn to answer that question and what data collection techniques will help you get there. For research on film, you might think about archival research in film archives. You might want access to the written work of directors and screenwriters to analyze. You might answer your question from data collected in interviews with specific film executives and other artists involved in the Bengali film industry. The choice will depend on your discipline and your personal interests. Indeed, after thinking critically about your methodology and what materials are available, you might find yourself further refining your research question.


Then you move into the research phase, where you are actively collecting data. Importantly, this stage also includes analysis and continued engagement with your research design. Most researchers, even the most rigid and committed to a pure scientific method, will begin thinking about how the data they are finding might answer their research question even in the middle of the data collection phase. This doesn’t mean stopping early in the process; it does mean continuing to think about your findings and what kinds of answers they are suggesting along the way.


This analysis continues more definitively during the write-up phase, where you are actually putting your findings into words and coming to real conclusions about your findings and how they provide an answer to your research question.


It’s a long process, but there is good news: LIBRARIANS ARE HERE TO HELP. Subject librarians and others in the Yale University Library system can assist you in the research process at all stages. Of course, faculty advisors and other academic resources are key, but librarians can be great people to test ideas on, hear about new publications and best research practices, and connect you with other specialists for additional advice and resources. We can also show you what resources exist at the university and electronically so that you can prepare for your research in as a thorough a way as possible.

Librarians and the Research Cycle

Congratulations! You’ve completed the course. Schedule a meeting with the South and Southeast Asian Studies Librarian to discuss your experience using this LibGuide, what questions came up along the way, and what research interests this guide may have sparked!

Librarian for South and Southeast Asian Studies