Research Help

In the 21st century, we have more information and knowledge instantaneously at our fingertips than could have been imagined 100, 50, or even 30 years ago. Figuring out how to wade through all of that information can be daunting. Research is one way we can we can make sense of and discuss all the information available to us. Research is the basis for strong and persuasive communication because it helps us understand what others have said, done, and written about a particular topic or issue.

Where do I begin?

In the 21st century, we have more information and knowledge instantaneously at our fingertips than could have been imagined 100, 50, or even 30 years ago. Figuring out how to wade through all of that information can be daunting. Research is one way we can we can make sense of and discuss all the information available to us. Research is the basis for strong and persuasive communication because it helps us understand what others have said, done, and written about a particular topic or issue.

Questions to get started

  1. What is my timeline for the project? You will likely want to set personal deadlines in addition to your instructor’s deadlines.
  2. What do I want to know or learn about? This helps you determine scope or the limits of your research.
  3. What do I already know about this topic?
  4. What biases might I have about this topic? How might I combat these biases?

Questions to determine methodology

  1. Where might I find useful, reliable information about this topic? For academic research, you will generally focus on library, technical, scientific, and governmental resources.
  2. Will I need to perform primary research, secondary research, or both?

Next you will have to develop a research question.

By this point you should have a general idea of your topic and some general ideas of where you might find this information.

Where do I look?

The default research site for most students tends to be Google. Google can be a great starting place for a variety of research. Google will not provide access to the appropriate and necessary types of sources and information. Google Scholar, however, searches only academic and scientific journals, books, patents, and governmental and legal documents. This means the results will be more technical and scholarly and therefore more appropriate for much of the research you will be expected to perform as a student.
Library resources such as databases, peer-reviewed journals and books are generally the best bet for accurate and more technical information. Overall, library resources are more tightly controlled and vetted. Anyone can create a blog or website and post information, regardless of the accuracy or usefulness of the information. Library resources, in contrast, have generally gone through rigorous processes and revisions before publication.

How do I perform a search?

Research is not a linear process. Research requires a back and forth between sources, your ideas and analysis, and the rhetorical situation for your research. It is important to have a wide range of keywords because not all terms will result in the same information. You can use a couple different tricks to narrow your search. Using quotation marks around two or more words means the search results will contain those words only in that specific order. For example, based on the exercise above, a search for “illegal aliens” would only provide results where these words appear in this exact order, with no words between them.

NEXT: How do I reference? What is Plagiarism?

These two questions are extremely important to building a string research paper.
Learn more about each by selecting a button below.

Learn About ReferencingLearn About Plagiarism