As I keep emphasising, although your eventual investigation and written coursework needs to be your own individual work, you are expected to research your topic area thoroughly, and that includes reading around the subject itself, and also finding out possible research methodologies and so on. There is no reason at all why you can’t seek help for this stage of the process: indeed doing so will help establish your credentials as a well-motivated student making use of all the resources available (and that includes people). One of the great advantages of carefully targeted social networking is that it can give you access to people who know more about your area of study than you or I do.
While talking to Anne about her investigation idea of looking at the use of Singlish, I suggested that she could do with finding out more about the form and structure of English beyond the largely ‘comic’ sites about the labuage variety that she had found on the web. I’d had a quick google around and found a few bits and pieces but I didn’t have the time (and nor is it my responsibility) to evaluate their authority or relative usefulness, so instead I put out the following Tweet:
Have student doing investigation into Singlish (Singaporean #English) - any links/contacts/resources out there beyond simple google search?—
Anthony Heald (@AntHeald) February 08, 2011
After a couple of people had made suggestions or retweeted my post, I had an exchange of tweets with @kokeshi who is a researcher living in Singapore who was able to make some very useful suggestions of links and key texts relevant to Anne’s investigation.
So use any methods you can for finding the information and people who can help you with your study. Google is a start, but it isn’t enough. Why not go one step further than this and find out who some of the experts in your field are, and contact them to see if they can offer any advice or information? The worse they can do is ignore you or tell you they are too busy, but I would imagine that in at least some cases a thoughtfully and politely worded email that shows you already have some knowledge and ideas about the topic and asking for their comments and suggestions would be met with a favourable reponse, and working their expertise into your coursework would certainly enhance its quality and impressiveness in my eyes, and I’m sure in those of a moderator. (Oh wait, I am a moderator!)