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Map the System Competition: Home

Guide to resources for UNC teams participating in the Map the System Competition

Purpose of Research Guide

Find research tips & curated information sources for UNC students participating in the Map the System competition. Use the links in the side nav menu to quickly navigate this webpage.

Want to talk about picking a topic? How to do efficient and effective research? Which database to start with? Email Nancy, the librarian, or schedule a meeting using the buttons under her photo.

This guide is adapted from Hal Kirkwood's guide at the Sainsbury Library.

Important Links

Student Guide to Mapping a System

Tips for Using the Guide Book

This is a really long book!

  • Don't read it all at once or try to work through every chapter in one sitting.
  • Read the table of contents on page 8 of the PDF to determine which chapters are likely to be helpful.
  • Take it slowly: one chapter, or "chunk", of content at a time. Use the "Actions" section at the end of every chapter to get ideas for exercise and activities that can help you move forward with your project.
  • Get your team together to discuss each chapter that's relevant to your project and make sure everyone understands the content.

Research Tips

pages 39-46 in the PDF

  • Use a wide, diverse range of sources, such as:
    • scholarly articles, government statistics
    • laws and statutes, regulations and policy documents
    • research reports commissioned by NGOs or foundations
    • industry or think tank reports
    • citizen science & participatory research
    • podcasts or documentaries, 
    • “thoughtleader” speeches or professional interviews
  • Use quantitative and qualitative data and information in your storytelling.
    • Qualitative data (called “thick data” in the guide) can reveal stories behind the quantitative data or statistics. Find qualitative information about the everyday experience of people living in/affected by the system/problem you’re researching in places like biographies, ethnographic studies (what is ethnography, Encyclopedia Britannica).
  • Seek first-person perspectives.
    • seek out first-hand perspectives from practitioners or other experts with deep knowledge of your chosen challenge
    • However, when it comes to the perspectives of vulnerable populations, we encourage you to seek out sources of first person perspectives already gathered through other means (for example,biographies, profiles in the media, published academic research, etc.).
    • Conducting interviews in certain contexts, especially with vulnerable populations may require ethics approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). If you have questions about this, contact Nancy.
  • Look for knowledge aggregators. (see chart below for examples of sources)
    • sources that summarize and collect information and reports on many topics
  • Keep a research journal or research notes to track:
    • databases you use,
    • keywords you are searching with,
    • questions you are generating.
  • Take notes on the sources you find and create your bibliography while you’re working.
    • Cite as you go! It’s the worst thing ever to get to the end of your report and have to go back through and try to find all the sources for the data and evidence you reference.
    • Use Zotero, free citation manager tool, to organize your sources. Automatically generate a bibliography from Zotero.
    • Use ZoteroBib for quickly generating citations with just a URL or DOI.
    • Oxford prefers the Harvard citation style, but use whatever style you’re most comfortable with. Most importantly, be consistent.

Articles & Data for All Topics

United Nations & Sustainable Development Goals


Environmental Sustainability

Poverty & Livelihoods

Peace, Equality, & Human Rights


Sanitation & Water

Business Research Consultant/Librarian

Profile Photo
Nancy Lovas
Davis Library