Effective research is all about process. Here are six key steps to get you started on the right path:
- Choose a topic—wisely
There’s nothing worse than having to write a paper on a topic in which you have absolutely no interest. Take some time to browse and find a topic that tweaks your interest. Online directories are perfect for this!
- Find general, background information
Once you have a sense of what you’d like to research, do some background reading. Encyclopedias, books, or Web sites at a lower reading level are perfect for this because you can skim through them very quickly. This reading will help you to…
- Focus and narrow your topic
You only have a limited number of pages to cover your topic. You need to focus on a single aspect of a topic, rather than trying to cover the whole topic in a single paper. The trick is to narrow your focus enough so you can discuss your topic in sufficient detail.
- Determine what KIND of information you need
Are you looking for statistics? Quotes from leading researchers? Historical information? What you are looking for will determine where you go to find it. One source does not fit all!
- Plan your search strategy
Map it out! What are you looking for? Where is the best place to look for this information? What are your key search terms?
Remember, the Internet is not your only source of information. Don’t forget, print resources (such as reference books, non-fiction books) and online research databases (such as InfoTrac or EBSCO)!!
Keep track of your sources as you go!
Every research paper must include a Bibliography or Works Cited. You must also properly cite any research you are using within the paper. If you do not give credit to the original authors, you ARE plagiarizing!
So, to save yourself the headache later on, keep track of where you’re finding the information. The online citation machines (MLA
) can help you figure out what information you will need (e.g. author’s name, title, publication date, URL or page number).