Relevant Coursework Definition

Before you can embark on any type of research endeavor you need to know where to turn for information. If you're just starting out, or have a lot of reservations about preparing for a project or paper, defining which sources are relevant and which ones are not should be one of your primary concerns.

What makes a source relevant?

Relevancy in source attainment can vary and will depend on the type of project you are working on. Though in general, a source is deemed relevant if it aides you in sufficiently accomplishing your goal and objective. When determining if a source is relevant you should consider the details and description of the assignment, any important questions you must answer, and the main objective or goal of the research you plan to conduct. Likewise, if you've already developed a thesis statement then your sources should be relevant to the points covered in the thesis.

People perform research for several reasons and therefore require sources that serve different functions. Before you determine if a source is helpful to you or not you need to ask yourself a few key questions. The first one being, what type of research are you conducting?

Determine your research type

Whether you're writing an essay for an English class, a scientific report for a psychology class, or evaluating a proposed theory in an engineering, you're conducting some type of research-light or in-depth. This research usually falls under one of three categories.


As the name suggest, exploratory research involves further exploring a problem or idea to better define the topic and create a feasible thesis or main argument. A problem cannot be examined properly unless it is fully defined. Therefore this type of research allows the student to gain a better understanding of what needs to be achieved based on secondary sources before any concrete or actual research takes place.


Generally if your research is more literature-based in which you do not conduct any 'first-hand' original research but rather explore theories and other developments which you then use to try and solve a problem, then most likely you are conducting a form of theoretical research. You may have also seen the term constructive research closely connected to this as well because it deals with research performed to solve a specific problem or crisis based on theories.


This can also be referred to as empirical research in which you are conducting original research using direct or indirect observations. Your study will be qualitative or quantitative and may involve samples, case studies, and live experiments. This is a very popular and common type of 'hands-on' research.

In a sense these three types can also be seen as the steps of the research process. The first one being, to explore and define the topic, the second, to research the theories on it, and the third, to conduct the experiment.

Identify the sources that will give you the answers you need

The purpose of narrowing down relevant sources is so that you can pinpoint just the right handful of materials to help you achieve your main objective. If you are conducting exploratory research you may want to start by using basic information sources to help gain more information on your topic.

Relevant sources for basic, introductory information

  1. Encyclopedias
  2. Dictionaries
  3. Simple internet searches (for general information)
  4. Professors or experts in the field

*Of course your exploratory research is not limited to the things mentioned and sources may overlap with those needed for theoretical or empirical research as well.

Relevant sources for theories

  1. Scholarly and peer reviewed journal articles
  2. Textbooks and books specific to the topic being studied
  3. Trade magazines or newsletters if your topic is connected to a particular profession

Relevant sources for original research (data collection)

  1. Experiments
  2. Case studies/clinical trials
  3. Interviews
  4. Observations
  5. Extracting information from data information systems
  6. Surveys

Other relevant sources not mentioned that can be very useful in obtaining certain information

  1. Newspaper articles
  2. Government documents and statistics
  3. Almanacs
  4. Handbooks/Guides
  5. Bibliographies
  6. Manuscripts and Artifacts

*Primary and secondary sources: When researching its important to know the difference between primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are generally considered original research or 'first-hand' accounts of an event (for example, diaries and letters). Secondary sources are objective reviews, discussions, examinations, and analysis of primary and secondary sources. They are usually books written on a topic, and journal and magazine articles or reviews etc.

Relevant vs. Useful

Additionally, in the research process you may notice that there are many books and articles available to you related to your topic. This may be even more so if you have a broad topic that has yet to be narrowed down. Does that mean that you should try and use all of the sources you find? No it doesn't.

Some material may fit the subject matter you are looking for but does not meet the specificities required for your main idea. Specificities can only be determined once you've identified what you want to achieve and the various points you'd like to cover in your paper. Once that is complete you can develop a research strategy to identify the scope of your research (such as the time period you'll be looking at) as well as particular keywords you can use in your search. *For example if your topic is 'eating habits of the urban poor', you may want to look up 'food and the poor' in a search database.

Even after you find relevant sources that meet the specificities of your paper or project you still may see them going unused in your writing. Thats okay. Sometimes we change our objectives or thesis slightly as we go along (and gain more knowledge on the topic) and realize that certain information is no longer a priority and not very useful for what you are trying to achieve.

Finding suitable resources is a major part of the research process. A skilled researcher can recognize useful sources early on and save his or herself a significant amount of time by not focusing energy on unrelated or useless information. But even the pros may find themselves gathering relevant resources that are ultimately unhelpful in the construction of a paper or project. Overall, proper preparation and a detailed research plan is the best means to preventing timely investments and unused resources.

How to Include Your Coursework in Your Resume

As a current student or recent graduate, you may not have very much work experience to include on your resume.

One way to strengthen your resume is to emphasize related coursework and other academic experiences. Read below for advice on how to write a resume that focuses on coursework; you can also view a sample student resume.

Tips for Including Your Coursework in Your Student Resume 

  • Include related courses. Consider creating a section in your resume called “Relevant Coursework.” In it, include the courses directly related to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for work as a paralegal, list any classes you took related to law or politics.
  • Include related academic projects. Similarly, if you have completed any research projects related to your future career, list these. If you are applying for a job that involves conducting research, list any extensive research projects you worked on.
  • Include related extracurricular activities. If you participated in any sports or clubs where you developed skills relevant to the job you’re applying for, include these. You could include a section on your resume called “Extracurricular Activities,” or you might highlight activities in a broader section called “Relevant Experience.”
  • Include volunteer experiences. Even if you did not get paid for this work, volunteer experiences can make terrific additions to your resume. For example, if you are applying for a job as a teacher’s assistant, describe your volunteer tutor experience.
  • Use keywords in your descriptions. Beneath each experience, list your responsibilities and achievements in that experience that help show you as a strong fit for the position. One way to do this is to include keywords from the job listing in the descriptions. If the job requires field research experience, be sure to mention your “30+ hours of field research” in the description of your senior project.
  • Emphasize academic successes. Beyond related coursework, you should also emphasize any academic successes, such as a high GPA or an award from an academic department. Although these successes may not appear to be directly related to the job for which you are applying, they demonstrate your hard work and responsibility.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Take the time to thoroughly edit your resume for spelling and grammar errors. Also make sure that your font and style choices are consistent—for example, if you write one section title in bold, all section titles should be bold. You might set up a meeting with a counselor at your ​college career services office to have someone else read through your resume too.

Example of a Student Resume Focusing on Coursework 

The following is a resume for a paralegal. This resume focuses on relevant coursework and leadership experiences.

Hailey Sharpe
Home 555-555-5555 Cell 555-555-1234
456 Oakwood Terrace
Anytown, PA 99999


Sagamore College, Easton, NY
May 20XX
Bachelor of Arts in Government
Cumulative GPA: 3.8
Awarded Outstanding Government Major, Spring 20XX


Business Law Course, Business Department, Sagamore College
Fall 20XX–present

  • Analyze and briefcases with a business focus
  • Discuss and evaluate legal principles from an ethical perspective

Research Assistant, Sagamore
Fall 20XX–present

  • Collaborate with adviser, research team, and Smith School of Medicine
  • Conduct research regarding effects of steroids on activity level of rats
  • Use computer program to gather and analyze data
  • Present new findings in bimonthly discussion with department

Sociology of Law Course, Sociology Department, XYZ College
Spring 20XX

  • Researched case law dealing with social policy and the Supreme Court
  • Analyzed cases and produced final paper regarding social policy in court cases
  • Explained results and conclusions in a final presentation to practicing lawyers


Resident Assistant, XYZ College
Fall 20XX–May 20XX

  • Served as mentor and leader to incoming students, providing sense of community for those living in dorms
  • Worked with staff members and campus safety to ensure safe and secure living environment


Produce Clerk, Food Market, ABC Town, MA
Summer 20XX–present

  • Train new employees
  • Awarded “Employee of the Month” five times

Lifeguard/Pool Supervisor, Local Town Pool, ABC Town, MA
Summer 20XX–Fall 20XX


Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint; LexisNexis; Adobe

Read More:Resume Examples | Top 10 Resume Writing Tips | How to Create a Professional Resume | Resume Objectives

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