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DGD 277: Intro to Communication Design II: Research Process

This course guide is designed to help students in DGD 277 figure out how to do research and provide a starting point for finding resources to help them in class.

Contemporary Designer Research

When conducting research, you need to use reputable sources. Books and databases provided by the Library are a great starting point - you know that the information they contain is going to be reliable (see the "Books & Databases" tab). Sometimes, though, you may be researching a designer for whom there are no published books or peer-reviewed articles (i.e. sources you would find via the Library). Expanding your research to include the internet as a whole can be useful.

While not everything on the internet is reliable, a lot of sources are still valuable. Consider using the following:

  • the creator's own website (primary source)
  • museum or gallery websites (likely secondary source)
  • organizational websites (for design firms, etc.) (primary or secondary source)
  • interviews (primary source)
  • sites known for presenting faithful images of the creator's work (images are primary sources):

Research Log

When conducting research, it is important to keep track of where information comes from. This can be as simple as keeping a document with the title of the source and your notes on how it's relevant to your research.

Make sure to restate what the source is saying (in writing or visually). If you copy and paste an image or use the exact words in your notes without indicating it's a direct quote, you run the risk of using that information in your project without properly attributing it and committing accidental plagiarism.

Evaluating Your Sources

Not all of the information on the internet is reliable. Some things to think about: 

  • Who is the author? Do they have a background or education in the topic?
  • Where is it published? Is the site reputable?
  • Does it cite its sources? Information isn't created in a vacuum; does it acknowledge others' research?
  • How in-depth is the information? Is it well written?
  • Can you detect a bias in the writing? What is that bias?
  • When was it written? Does the age of the information make a difference in how accurate it is?

While sources for images do not have to be scholarly, visuals found via Google should be inspected critically for signs of editing or alteration.

Aside from the reliability of the image itself, look at the information provided about the image - is it accurate? Does it have all the elements it should, or is any information missing (i.e. date of creation, etc.)?

Research Log Example

Citation information Source location Source value / content
"Guerrilla Tactics," Jennifer Thatcher, Art Monthly Nov. 2016 401, 1-4, link (requires CCS login) library database: Art & Architecture Source Guerrilla Girls. Process: initially listening to reactions from viewers of their posters helped form ideas for new works (pg 1); information gathering: reach out to directors of museums personally (pg 2)
College for Creative Studies website