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CMST 238 Intercultural Communication: Researching Intercultural Issues

What should I Keep in Mind When Researching Intercultural Topics?

A source's authority is constructed. 

In college assignment research, we often start with basic print-format markers to help us decide if a source is from a "good authority" for our topic -- things like the type of publication (example: academic journals, scholarly books) or author credentials (an author's listed titles or affiliations).

When considering sources across cultures, you will want to be open to different formats -- think about how authority is constructed in different cultures, and that influence and authority may look different in different communities. Some sources may not have "traditional" print text, but a known authority on your topic is providing good information in a different format - an oral history, an interview, a lecture or speech, etc.

  • Example: 2018-2019 GRC One Book title, March, Book 3, is an example of a history of the African American Civil Rights Movement told as an authoritative, first-hand account in a comic book format:
    March, Book 3 cover and sample comic panel

Consider who is creating the information, and who the intended audience is.

Many of the sources you'll use in the library and online will assume an American or English-speaking audience by default, and so when you read / use these sources, make sure to note who the author is addressing and what the boundaries, or scope, of the source seem to be.

You don't have to cover every possible cultural perspective, but there are times when it might be useful to be able to draw your audience's attention to the fact that a quote or source is speaking only or largely about one cultural viewpoint.

  • Example: This article about romantic love in movies focuses almost entirely on film history in the United States - without ever noting that it is a tradition of showing romantic relationships in one particular film industry:

You can balance out sources that seem to be focusing too heavily on one particular cultural narrative by locating other sources that - while having good authority - show other perspectives:

"The Big Sick" poster

What is Research?

Research is a process.

Step 1: Understand your assignment

  • Read your assignment
  • Ask questions
  • List starting requirements (number of sources, essay type, etc.)

Step 2: Start with a general topic idea 

  • Read background information in Reference works and learn
  • Ask questions
  • Identify key concepts and key words
  • Identify key issues and different points of view
  • Refine and focus your topic 

Step 3: Find information

  • Use keywords to search for information in books, articles, and other sources
  • Add to your keywords list: broader terms, narrower terms, related terms
  • Use smart search strategies 

Step 4: Evaluate

  • Assess your information sources for authority and bias
  • Are they good choices for your academic project?

Step 5: Cite Your Sources

  • Cite your sources 
  • Summarize and evaluate your sources in an annotated bibliography 


Intercultural Books