Research How-To's for the College Level Student
UNDERSTANDING THE INFO-WORLD AND ITS ORGANIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE
This page is designed to facilitate the college and/or adult learner in the organization and collation of research using six simple steps. It wasn’t that long ago when doing research meant long hours of tedious and sometimes unproductive hours in libraries or archives. Today the Internet is a global resource connecting millions of users to an innumerable amount of information resources. It is my hope that these six simple steps will assist educators and students of education in conducting and writing research by using the Internet and web research tools.
- LOCATING MATERIALS
- DEVELOPING A RESEARCH STRATEGY
- SELECTING AND EVALUATING MATERIALS
- LEARNING BIBLIOGRAPHIC FORMS
- PARAPHRASING AND QUOTING SOURCES BY NOTETAKING
- WRITING THE PAPER
This site's links are based on the needs I discovered as a graduate student and through my work experience as an educator. Your university library may have paid subscriptions to a variety of useful databases, be sure to ask one of the library staff members for help whenever you visit the university library. Also, check out resources at other universities nearby. Listed below are the sites I would recommend as a good starting point.
Educational Psychology Interactive
The purpose of writing is to communicate. Every research study has a thesis or point of view. The writer must make sure that the thesis is supported by the research. Experienced writers prepare for the task of writing. They gather information, outline and organize their facts and ideas. Some theorists insist that learning takes place by organizing one's perceptions in certain useful ways. Cognitive psychology applies to the study of thinking, concept formation, and problem solving. Others theories, in my theoretical perspective, include Mastery Learning, Active Learning , Discovery Learning and/or Problem-based Learning.
Begin with general sources, such as journal databases (like Carl Uncover), and libraries like OCLC and the Library of Congress , and other national libraries on-line all over the world . Of course be sure to do a “google” search using keywords related to your topic; locate key organizations related to your topic; and/or see if you can locate other bibliographies related to your topic.
Most people get to this point and break out the notecards and start writing---BUT DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE! When selecting and evaluating materials, begin with some exploratory reading—that is sort of skimming…or reading abstracts and/or summaries of research. Exploratory reading is intended to provide a broad review of a subject before you select a narrow aspect for research. Done properly, exploratory reading can help you frame your hypothesis or thesis statement.
Don't begin taking notes until you have narrowed your topic sufficiently or determined an "angle" for your research. Generally, research is done to support a point-of-view, so make sure your hypothesis is narrow enough to be specific—but general enough to be supported by research. Another significant step at this time is to evaluate the source material on things such as:
· The author's objectivity in presenting the material,
· Author's qualifications to speak on the subject,
· Title of the work,
· Date of publication,
· Table of contents and index,
· The author's use of primary and secondary source material
In the process of exploratory reading, you will become aware of two types of sources primary and secondary. Primary sources can indicate that the materials are…original documents, letters, diaries, manuscripts, or copies of original work. Secondary sources are materials which are written by other people about your subject.
After you have selected your topic and have limited it to some specific purpose through a clear thesis statement, you are ready to begin the initial step of research work by compiling a "working bibliography." After you have acquired a number of sources, the next will be to closely examine them for possible usefulness.
For each source that you examine, you should make a bibliography card. Bibliography cards will make it easier for you when you return to gather your materials and begin taking (research) notes. After a working preliminary bibliography has been compiled purposive reading can begin—this is intensive reading on your own chosen, narrowed topic to collect pertinent data. Even a narrowed topic can require extensive research.
Get some good advice on how your paper should be set up (from your instructor, especially), there are sites on line to help with bibliographic form of Internet sources and you'll probably also want to get one of the manuals listed below:
Publication Manual of the
American Psychological Association, (FAQ for APA Manual)
Turabian , Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.
Notetaking has several purposes
· Saves time...
· Saves memory...
· Organizes thoughts...
Some suggestions to follow when taking notes are:
· Skim the selection.
· Each card should contain only one note and writing on one side.
· Number your bibliography cards with source numbers.
· Note the topic (of the card) in the upper left hand corner.
· Use your own shorthand... paraphrase or summarize
· Jot down facts and ideas, not the author's words. If you wish to quote directly, enclose the passage in prominent quotations marks.
Grinding out a report at the last minute is nobody's idea of a good time. That is why it is so important to plan and organize. First, make sure you understand the project. What exactly does your university instructor expect? If you’re not sure—ASK! Work with him/her on the format of your paper and setting and meeting the deadlines. If you can be patient and get organized, with a little help from your instructor, you can learn to write a far more effective and original (!) paper. Synthesizing information for your paper is one of the most important facets of research. Writing the paper is where synthesis takes place. Synthesizing simply means sorting out and organizing your research, and determining what is logically important for your paper. Good synthesis through writing requires these steps which should be monitored by you and your instructor:
· You arrange your research notes into a logical order that reflects and/or supports your thesis statement
· You write the final outline and share it with one other person (instructor if possible)
· Write the first draft (and share it with one other person who will give you honest feedback)
· Edit the first draft (this is polishing the apple…and it’s worth the trouble!)
· Write the revised, final draft with footnotes, bibliography, and title page
· Assemble the completed paper
This is not necessarily the only way synthesis can occur. The point is to be organized and methodical. Your paper will require editing and re-working before it is finally complete.
Best of Luck! Let me know how things turn out!