Planning Your Research
Doing research requires a lot of time and planning. You should allow yourself plenty of time to do it properly.
You need a clear idea of what you want to do and what information you need to find. Doing the search itself—finding the books, articles, websites, and so forth—may be the fastest part of your research process.
Finally, writing, editing, and rewriting take time. Don't wait until the last minute.
In this section:
Be sure you understand the research assignment and the instructor's expectations, which include:
Focus your thinking.
Get background information and focus more.
Based on your brainstorming and background research, write a question or statement that you would like to explore in your paper.
Developing Key Terms from Your Topic
Develop lists of "key terms" for your thesis. Most library databases don't work like Google. You can't just type in your question, and get a useful answer. So you need a list of key terms—single words or short phrases that capture the most important ideas about your topic. These are what you will use to search. Here's how to develop key terms:
Break up your question/statement into the most important concepts (usually no more than two or three).
Write lists of words that describe each concept and use a thesaurus to help find synonyms.
You may need to think of specific examples, in some cases, and not just synonyms.
Example: For a paper on college sports, you might write out the following:
Combine the key terms using AND and OR (these are called "Boolean Operators").
AND and OR are funny words - they do the opposite of what most people think they're going to do!
AND narrows a search down. It says "I have to find everything you've listed or I won't show the result!"
OR broadens a search. It says "Well, either one of these words is okay, so I'll show you results with anything you've listed."
In practice this means:
Searches can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them. Most databases have advanced search pages that make it very easy to fit everything together.
So for the example above, you could create a very simple search:
Or a much more complicated one:
You'll see more search boxes like this when we get to Part 4 (the databases section) of the tutorial.
Of course, this is a lot of information to keep track of. In Part 1 of the worksheet, we have two different methods for organizing and visualizing your key terms and searches. Go ahead and try both methods and see which one works better for you—one of the most important parts about learning to do research is figuring out what works best for the way you think!