This basic research strategy is designed to give you a simple plan for thinking about your information needs and finding appropriate resources. Though the order of these steps is flexible, a successful researcher will want to consider each of them. For answers, move your mouse over each question and CLICK!
• WHAT IS YOUR ASSIGNMENT?
Read your assignment until you understand it completely. (If you do not understand the assignment, ask your instructor to clarify it for you.) If you have not been given a specific topic, choose something that interests you. What have you always wanted to learn about? Once you have chosen your topic, think about your assignment requirements and the information sources available to you. Check with the EdCC Librarians for information on finding the most appropriate print and electronic resources for your research.
• WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOUR TOPIC?
Sit down with a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm what you know about your topic. What questions and ideas do you have? Where are the gaps in your knowledge about the topic? How can you verify that what you think you know is accurate? If you need help, the Writing Center can help you develop your topic.
• WHERE CAN YOU FIND BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON YOUR TOPIC?
Take a look at the subject encyclopedias in the library or on the EdCC Library website. A subject encyclopedia article is a great way to get an overview of your topic and identify important concepts, terms, names of people, time periods, geographic areas, and connected events. The EdCC Library has specialized print and electronic encyclopedias covering all academic disciplines.
• CAN YOU EXPRESS YOUR TOPIC AS A QUESTION OR A STATEMENT?
If your topic question or statement is too broad or too general, it will be hard to research. On the other hand, if your topic question or statement is too narrow, it will be hard to research. Check with your instructor or librarian for help. Here are examples of topics that might be too broad: Genetically Modified Food, Global Warming, AIDS, Slavery, Microsoft. Examples of topics that might be too narrow: Impact of Abraham Lincoln’s father on the creation of the Gettysburg Address. Balanced Topic: Labeling Genetically Modified Food. Topic Question: Genetically modified food should be labeled so people can decide if they think it is safe for them to eat.
• WHAT SUBJECT AREAS CONTAIN INFORMATION ON YOUR TOPIC?
If your topic is about labeling genetically modified food, you would want to know about "agriculture", "science" and "health". If your topic is about being a midwife, you would want to know about “nursing” or “medicine.” Identifying your subject areas can help you find electronic and print resources. If you are in the library, its’ print resources are organized by subject using the Library of Congress Classification System. You can use the library catalog to look up a book title and its’ call number and find the book on the shelf. You could also go to the area in the library for your subject and browse the shelves.
• WHAT ARE THE KEY WORDS THAT RELATE TO YOUR TOPIC?
When you use the library catalog or periodical (newspaper, magazine, journal) databases such as ProQuest, Academic Search Premier, and eLibrary, you will need the key words that relate to your topic. To find keywords, you can look in subject encyclopedia, brainstorm with your classmates, and consult your textbook, thinking about articles you may have read or news you have heard. Keywords can come from a wide range of sources.
• WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO ORGANIZE THE INFORMATION THAT YOU HAVE GATHERED SO FAR?
As you research your topic, do you see a structure emerge for your research project? Start with your research question and outline what you have found on it. Also, review your assignment to make sure you are on track with the requirements for your project.
• WHAT DO YOU STILL NEED TO KNOW?
Look at the sources and information you have gathered up to this point. Are there particular parts of your research topic or thesis that is not covered?
• WHAT ARE YOUR MAJOR RESEARCH TOOLS?
Be sure to review what is available in print and electronic encyclopedias and books and ask a librarian if you need help. Be sure to search all relevant periodical databases. Be sure to check quality websites. Could you use experts, statistics or interviews or audio-visual sources?
• HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THE SOURCES THAT YOU FIND?
Who is responsible for writing the information?
Does the author have the best experience and qualifications?
Is the information accurate? How do you know it’s trustworthy?
What is the purpose behind the information? Is someone trying to get you to buy something? Is someone trying to get you to support their cause?
Is the information current? Does the date of publication matter in the way you are using the information?
What is covered? What is not covered? Are you getting the depth of coverage you need? Is it written for adults or children?
Are you looking in the best sources for the kind of information you need? Can the information you want be more easily found in a different format such as online or in print? Are you using the best tool for the job?
Tip: To prepare a bibliography and cite your sources, be sure to gather the information you need from each source. Work with a guide on the format style assigned you buy your instructor e.g. MLA or APA etc. Questions? Use the format guides on the library website. Ask your instructor or librarian.