Inside the Library’s Labyrinth #3 – It’s good to know your (Sage and) Onions

This week’s highlighted resource is Sage Research Methods.  It contains information and advice on qualitative and quantitative research methods and how you can use them in your research/writing projects.

There is a story about the well-known English idiom ‘to know your onions’ meaning to be knowledgeable about a particular subject.  It postulates that the phrase was named after English lexicographer and compiler of the Oxford English dictionary Mr C. T. Onions.  He was, so the story goes, the epitome of the well-regarded expert and so gave his name to this colloquialism.

Inside the Library’s Labyrinth #3 – It’s good to know your (Sage and) Onions

The story is, sadly, not true, but more of that later. . .

The saying sprang to my mind when thinking of a title for this blog.  Sage and onion is, of course, a well-established stuffing for poultry and given the title of this week’s resource it was only a small intellectual jump to make from sage to ‘sage and onion’ and on to ‘knowing your onions’.  So, after that, lets just see if we can help you to know YOUR onions.

‘What every Researcher Needs’ is the central slogan on the splash page and it more than lives up to the billing.  Whether you are a postgraduate wanting to broaden your knowledge of your chosen methods or an undergraduate wanting some tips on doing a literature review, this site has something for you.

Using the search engine from the main page you can get book, article, video and other references looking at the particular area or aspect of research you have in mind.  These can be added to your prepared reading list (see below) or exported as a citation into your work.  The references can be exported to a number of different research management software programmes including our recommended one here at Warwick, EndNote.

Inside the Library’s Labyrinth #3 – It’s good to know your (Sage and) Onions

The site covers all aspects of a research project from understanding the philosophy of research to developing a researchable question and the writing up and dissemination of your research.

A way into the site’s content is by using the research tools tab which you can click on at the top of the page.  This highlights four separate strands of content which are worth mentioning individually:

  •  Methods Map  –  especially useful for definitions and clarifying approach, this is a visual representation of the research methods you might consider and the key terminology associated with them.
  • Reading Lists  –  you can create a personal profile on the site (see the tab top right of the homepage) and then save content from your searches to come back to or share with others.
  • Project Planner  –  this takes you, in a linear fashion, through the twelve separate steps of a research project, providing detailed content that you can cite, save to your reading list or share with a range of social media.
  • Which Stats Test  –  as the name suggests this allows you to choose an appropriate statistical tool for your research.

The Browse tab (right next to the research methods tab) gives you an overview of the content which is split into Topic, Discipline and Content Type columns.  The Topic column links you to the different part of the Methods Map.  Most academic disciplines are covered in the Discipline column with both arts and science subjects well represented.  Click on a discipline and you will be given a search result for this subject containing a plethora of offerings covering your subject area.  The Content Type column simply reflects the range of content available on the site with reference articles, journal articles, videos and podcasts all mentioned .

Here, you will also find mention made of Little Blue Books and Little Green Books.  These provide short accessible texts on all kinds of qualitative and quantitative methods respectively. Providing clear explanations, and commentary on both theoretical and practical considerations in the implementation of both types of research.  They can also be accessed directly from the Home page.

Embarking on research can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.  There seem so many things to complete before you get to the core of what you want to do.

It can feel, for the researcher, like an impenetrable wall.  But good research comes from good foresight and planning.  Establishing the parameters of your area of study is vital to keeping your focus, working smartly and, ultimately, delivering unambiguous conclusions.

Inside the Library’s Labyrinth #3 – It’s good to know your (Sage and) Onions

So where did the saying ‘know your onions’ come from?  Well, according to two or three sources I checked it was first used in the American magazine Harper’s Bazaar in 1922.  It was one of a number of similar phrases that were used to describe someone with an excellent grasp of knowledge in their given field. To know one’s oatsto know one’s oilto know one’s applesto know one’s eggs, and even to know one’s sweet potatoes were all used at the time.  Knowing your onions just happened to be the one that stuck.

So, whether it’s your oats, oil, apples, eggs, or onions make sure you know them!  A visit to Sage Research Methods could well assist you in attracting such a distinguished description.

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