Analysis »

Using the Literature

"If you have explored the research topic thoroughly, your data will speak with its own authority." Sandra Kirby and Kate McKenna, Methods from the Margins, p. 123.

At any time in the research process you may find it useful to turn to the sociological literature on your topic to see how others' findings address your research question.

Contextualizing the Findings

The literature can provide you with historical or demographic knowledge to place the respondents' experience in context. As background research you may investigate, for example: Canada's immigration policies, overall levels of immigration from particular countries or regions, statistical profiles of immigrants' characteristics, demographic patterns of residence for new immigrants and second-generation communities, how your respondents' experiences on your topic compares with the general population and how it compares with the population in the country of origin.

Theorizing the Findings

The literature can introduce you to theoretical and analytical frameworks that help make sense of the data, or that spark new ways of interpreting the data. Conversely, you may discover that concepts in the literature inadequately convey certain dimensions of immigrants' experience. Your paper can discuss how your research supports, extends, modifies or contradicts existing treatments of your topic. You can also discuss how your research fills a gap in existing research.

Demonstrate the Contribution of the Findings

Do not use the literature to import a framework into your research process. Rather, allow your own ideas to emerge from intense engagement with the data. When your analytical concepts are well grounded in the data, your research will be an original contribution to the existing literature.

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