Why this is important
I found Username a source using Google Scholar and the Rowan library.
“I can’t find any sources!”
Username and I were talking yesterday about his topic, the hateful anti-gay rhetoric spewed by the Westboro Baptist Church, that passionate, let’s just say obnoxious and vicious group responsible for the God Hates Fags signs they display at funerals for American soldiers, gay or otherwise.
His thesis is that the Church inadvertently creates support for the gay community, maybe even for the gay marriage efforts of local jurisdictions, by making it harder to share a point of view with a group so tasteless. We don’t want to be associated with the “God Hates Fags” group, so we find it impossible to publicly support their cause.
So far, Username has been frustrated looking for sources to support his thesis. No amount of searching for “Westboro Baptist Church” has yielded the sort of evidence he’s looking for. Which is a good thing, but he doesn’t know it yet.
“I’ve been looking in the wrong place!”
I suggested to him that the trouble was his search technique. He was looking for direct testimony from somebody that the WBC were creating enemies for their cause. I asked him why. He said he wanted evidence that we all want to associate our opinions with people we admire, and that we avoid being associated with people we despise. I asked him if he could give me an example. He suggested that sometimes the sudden appearance of unexpected people in media presentations have polarizing effects on viewers’ feelings. When Oprah Winfrey endorses a cause, for example, some people automatically embrace the cause to show their solidarity with Oprah, while others resist the cause from a similar impulse. I asked him how this related to the WBC. He said the appearance of the celebrity reflects on the value and credibility of the message. It was clear from our conversation that the personalities involved in expressing an opinion affect our opinions.
“All I had to do was talk about it with someone”
Which made me mention celebrity product endorsements. A few years back, not just golf fans, but people in general, wanted to associate with Tiger Woods any way they could, which made him a massively popular product endorser. Now marketers won’t touch him with a 9-iron.
The process Username had been using:
- I want to my thesis that the Westboro Baptist Church creates support for gay rights.
- I search endlessly for “Westboro Baptist Church.”
- Nobody has written about the effect of the WBC on public opinion.
- Nobody has written about the accidental support the WBC provides for gay marriage.
- I despair that there are no sources to prove my thesis, that the WBC creates support for gay rights.
The best (worst) outcome for this process:
- Somebody would agree with me, which would prove my thesis. FAIL.
- Somebody would have written about the idea before I did and I would simply echo them to support myself. FAIL.
- I would “succeed” by parroting someone else’s thesis. FAIL.
What should I do instead?
- Think about (better yet, TALK about) my thesis until I start to raise questions that can be researched by searching something other than Westboro Baptist Church.
- Follow up that lead I generated for myself by raising the question of celebrity endorsement.
“This stuff actually works!”
Shortly after that conversation, I typed “celebrity endorsement” into Google Scholar and generated this lead on the second page:
The source is a journal of retail management. It has nothing to do with the Westboro Baptist Church, but it has everything to do with how far people will go to distance themselves from a product (or perhaps a political or social position) on the basis of negative information about a celebrity who endorses it.
“But I can’t actually get the article I want!”
The actual journal article was not available for free on Google Scholar. The cost to print the article was $32. And I didn’t even know if it would help me. I like Username a lot, but that was a little steep for a source of unknown value. So:
“Oh. That was easy.”
I entered the title above into the search engine for Rowan’s Campbell Library. (I didn’t even have to choose between ProfSearch and ProQuest; the generic search engine did all the work for me, since I knew the title.) The immediate result was this:
Free access to the full article from ProfSearch. Free because I’m affiliated, as you are, with the Rowan library database and the thousands of journals it subscribes to.
So, to update that process:
- Think about your topic.
- Talk about your topic.
- Listen carefully for researchable topics not immediately named in your thesis.
- Use whatever search engine works best for you
- Library Database directly
- Google Scholar
- Wikipedia articles that yield rich lists of sources you can then retrieve by title
- If you run into a pay wall, enter the titles in the Campbell Library database.
- Read about the value (both positive and negative) of celebrity endorsement.
- Learn about our tendency to dissociate ourselves from unsavory characters (AND their products, AND their social views).
- Apply that evidence—from outside your primary topic—to your very specific thesis.
Please reply below if this advice has been useful to you. Reply also if it hasn’t been useful. If you want me to believe you didn’t read it despite my efforts to help you, don’t reply at all. 🙂