Often students are shy about approaching their faculty, fearing that to do so would expose their own ignorance on the subject and thus undermine the faculty member’s confidence in the ability of the student to perform the required research and writing. However, the student should remember that most faculty members will be fact be happy to share their expertise: One of the great advantages of being a student, after all, is that one is still an apprentice and it is a part of one’s role to seek the advice and help of others.
Once the student has found a single source that is genuinely helpful on the topic, then he or she should read all (or close to all if some are clearly outdated or irrelevant) of the references cited in that text. Likewise when the student has read all of the works in this “second generation” of texts then he or she should read the references cited by those articles or books. This will quickly give the student a good overall sense of the work that has been and is being done in the field.
It is important, as Leedy & Omrod (2000) note, not to feel that one has to absorb all of the information on the first “pass” through the literature. Indeed, one should consider the first reading of key texts to be something like a reconnoitering party through the woods at night:
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