Research is a necessary part of doing almost any academic assignment. Unless you are a genius who can make scientific discoveries from the air, you will need to base your work on research to support your thesis statement and conclusions, or facts you introduce in your piece of writing. Therefore, to succeed in your writing, you must conduct a substantial amount of research. Observing a number of recommendations can make the research process more structured and efficient, and thus, result into a better paper—be it an article or a dissertation.
Steps of the Research Process
- Clearly formulate the subject of your paper. It is surprising how many people try to write an article or an essay without having a clear idea of what they actually want to say. Efficient research is almost impossible without knowing what exactly you want to write about.
- After you dream-up a title for your composition, make a list of questions your piece of writing should answer. The more detailed this questionnaire is, the better; general questions result in vague research results. Divide each question into smaller questions to achieve the maximum possible coverage of the subject.
- Identify sources you will need to find necessary information. You might want to browse the Internet, but prudent research cannot be limited to publications found on the Web. Your research resources should be diverse and versatile.
- Plan and organize your research. Determine how much time you will assign yourself to find information on each of the questions from your list. Once you’ve outlined your plan of work, follow it accurately, because if one day you do less than another, next time you will have more work to complete.
- Organize and sort out all the information you’ve found during the research process. Label your information by date, source, and the question it answers.
- Review the information you’ve gathered to make sure it covers all the points you sketched for yourself.
Where to Research
The most popular place for conducting any kind of research is, of course, a library. However, there are also many other spots where you can acquire the information you need to do your assignment. For example, you can use JSTOR, a register-and-read program that grants you access to a vast amount of information: journals, articles, and so on. There are also lots of similar resources, such as Questia, JournalSeek, or ScienceDirect. Google Scholar is also be appropriate place to start.
Key Points to Consider
- Resources you use for research can be divided into several types. You can search for needed information in printed editions: books, newspapers, magazines, brochures; you can either use the Internet and media sources, such as videos or presentations; you can talk to other people, interview experts who major in your field of research; finally, you can conduct your own experiments and observations to get the information you need.
- Many libraries have electronic catalogs as well as regular ones, so you don’t necessarily need to go to a library to check whether it has the books you need. Instead, you can enter the electronic catalog at home, making sure a certain library has the sources you need, order them beforehand, and only then go to that library.
- Interviewing people requires preparation, so when you finally meet a person you want to question, you don’t want to forget anything crucial. Therefore, make a list of questions in advance. Listen to your interviewee carefully, and take notes; tape-recorders are the best option for an interview.
- If you conduct an experiment on your own, or observe your object of scientific interest, be aware of your emotions and expectations on the subject. Since you are a person interested in the results of the experiment, your perception might greatly affect your interpretation of the latter. Therefore, try to stay as objective as possible, and compare the results of your observations with those made by other researchers.
Do and Don’t
Common Mistakes When Researching
- Ignoring the importance of a clear formulation of the paper’s subject. Hoping that general direction is enough for conducting research often results into piles of materials that actually are difficult to use because of their irrelevance to the subject.
- Poor comprehension of the material. Sometimes it may seem you have finally found what you were looking for a long time, and you bluntly copy the text from the source; but later, when you’ve already used it and submitted your work, it may appear that it is not exactly what you need, or even definitely not. Therefore, it is better to reassure that the information you use to support your arguments is relevant to your subject.
- Paying little or no attention to copyrights, and introducing materials from another authors’ works as your own.
- Failing to meet the deadline, and rushing against the clock.
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