With so much information available, having a research assignment can be overwhelming. However, if you approach the investigation methodically, you will be able to answer any question in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. Develop a research question that is narrow enough to be addressed within the scope of your essay, then use keywords to find sources that have the information you need. Once you have found several sources, you are ready to organize the information into a logical report that answers the question appropriately.
Part 1 of 3: Developing Your Theme
Step 1. Read the assignment instructions carefully
The flexibility you have in developing your research question will depend on how strongly your assignment is structured. Make sure you understand what the teacher wants so that you can find a topic that you are interested in learning and that best fits the assignment.
If you don't understand any aspect of the assignment, feel free to ask the teacher directly. Better to get an explanation on a point than to assume you know what it means and then find out that your assumptions were wrong
Step 2. Come up with some topics that interest you and match the parameters of the assignment
Generally, the professor will give you a broad field and will hope that you will find a narrower topic for your research within that field.
- For example, imagine that your teacher has assigned you an essay on a "public health problem." You could make a list that includes such public health issues as teen e-cigarette use, anti-vaccinations, and drunk driving.
- From your list, choose a certain area that you want to analyze. This is the point where you will begin your investigation. For the purposes of this example, imagine that you choose to investigate e-cigarette use in teens.
Step 3. Find general information on the topic
Once you have an idea for a narrower topic that you want to focus on, do your research online to determine what information is typically available around it. At this point, pay attention to the amount of information available and the issues raised by some of that information.
- If you do a general internet search on your topic and don't get many solid results, there may not be enough information for you to research your topic. However, this is usually rare, unless you started with a very narrow topic. For example, if you want to study e-cigarette use in your high school, you may not get enough sources. However, if you have broadened your search to include all high schools in your region, you may be in better luck.
- If you don't know much about your topic, find a resource that gives you an overview so that you can become more familiar with the possible questions you could answer in your research essay.
Step 4. Choose a question that you want to answer through your research
After doing a little preliminary search, you probably have an idea of the latent problems in your chosen area. Develop a question based on one of these problems that you can answer through research.
- For example, if you want to find out about teens and e-cigarette use, you might choose to ask the question "Are teens who use e-cigarettes more likely to smoke than those who don't?"
- How you ask the question will also depend on the type of essay you are writing. For example, if you are writing a persuasive research essay, you will need to make a claim and back it up with research. For example, instead of asking if teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke than those who don't, you could say, "Teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking."
be versatile with your research question. When you start to dig deeper, you may find that you have to adapt or even change it entirely, and there is nothing wrong with that. This is just part of the process of learning through research.
Step 5. Find information about your specific question
At this point, you are ready to do some preliminary research based on the question you have chosen. It may be helpful to type your exact question into the search engine and review the results you get.
Observe the number of results you get, as well as the quality of the sources. You could also use an academic search engine, such as Google Scholar, to determine how much academic material is available for your chosen question
Step 6. Refine your question based on the information you find
You may notice that your question is very broad or narrow based on the number of possible sources you find. To adapt the scope of it, analyze the characters involved, the time and the place.
- For example, if you have chosen teens who use e-cigarettes, the “characters” would be teens. If a research on the topic gives you too much information, you could shorten it by looking at a specific 5-year period (the time) or only the adolescents in a certain region (the place).
- If you need to broaden your question on the same topic, you might choose to look at teens and young adults under 25, not just teens.
Part 2 of 3: Get Good-Quality Fonts
Step 1. Identify the types of fonts you probably need
The types of sources you use for your research will depend on your grade or educational level. In general, you can use short articles from academic publications or web pages for a short essay. For a longer one, you may need to review longer academic books and articles. Requirements will vary depending on your assignment and the topic you are researching, but you may find the following guidelines helpful:
- 1 or 2 page essay: 2 or 3 web pages or short articles from academic publications.
- 3 to 5 page essay: 4 to 8 academic articles or academic publications, web pages or books.
- 5 to 10 page essay: 6 to 15 academic articles or academic publications, web pages or books.
- 10-15 page essay: 12-20 academic articles or academic publications, web pages or books.
Step 2. Use topic keywords to get initial sources
The success of your research will depend on whether you search for the right keywords, especially in the initial stages. Create a list of keywords, including synonyms.
- For example, if you are researching the prevalence of e-cigarette use in teens, you could also include “youth” as a synonym, along with “tobacco use” as a synonym for that action.
- Take advantage of academic databases available online through your school, in addition to those found on other websites.
enlist the help of research librarians. They will know the most effective ways to get the information you need, and they may be able to help you access sources that you don't even know exist.
Step 3. Evaluate possible sources using the CRAAP method
This stands for Currency, Reliability, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose and Point of View (CRAAP). This method gives you an easy way to assess the quality of potential sources you find quickly and consistently. To do this, you will have to ask the following specific questions about the source:
- Validity: how recent is the information? When was the last time you updated the font?
- Reliability: are there references to objective facts and data? Is the content primarily opinionated?
- Authority: who is the creator of the content? What is the publisher? Are they biased in any way? Does the creator have academic credentials in the field?
- Accuracy - Has the content been reviewed by a colleague from the field or edited by a third party? Does the information have supporting evidence? Can you easily verify the facts from another source?
- Purpose and point of view: is the content intended to teach you something or to persuade you on a point? Is the information presented biased?
If your source does not meet any of the criteria of the CRAAP method, be very careful if you use it as a reference in your research essay. If you don't meet more than one criteria, it's probably best not to use it.
Step 4. Extract reference lists for additional sources you can use
When you find a good source for your topic, the source is likely to cite other valuable sources that you can review. The biggest benefit of this is that you won't have to do a lot of work evaluating the quality of these sources; the author of the source that cites them will have already done this work for you.
- If an author mentions a particular source more than once, you will definitely have to read that material.
- Generally, the reference list will contain enough information for you to find the source on your own. If you find that you can't access the font, for example because you have to pay to do so, talk to your school or a public librarian about it. They could get you access.
Step 5. Take notes on each resource you find
Using a set of index cards will allow you to put each note on its own, which will help you organize them more easily at a later time. There are also computer applications (like Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, or Scrivener) that will allow you to do it digitally. Some of these apps are free, while others require you to purchase a subscription.
- List the citation information for the source at the top of the tab, then take notes in your own words. Include the page numbers (if applicable) that you will use in the citation.
- If you copy something directly from the source, put quotation marks around those words and note the page number (if applicable) where the quotation appears. You may also need to differentiate quotes even more, for example, by having them with text in a different color than the color of your own words. This will help protect you from accidental plagiarism.
Part 3 of 3: Organize your information
Step 1. Create a spreadsheet with bibliographic information for all sources
A spreadsheet will allow you to quickly organize and find citation information for your sources as you work on your essay. Having this information ready will minimize interruptions in your writing process.
- Include columns for full citations and in-text citations for each of your sources. Include a column for your notes and add them to the spreadsheet. If you have direct quotes, you could include a separate column for them.
- Many word processing apps have quotation features that allow you to enter a new source from a list, so you only need to type the quotation once. With a spreadsheet, you can simply cut and paste.
Even if your word processing application formats the citation automatically, it is good practice to create the citation in your spreadsheet.
Step 2. Categorize the notes into groups with similar information
While you were taking notes, you have probably grouped them according to the source in which you found them. Now, review the information that each source covers and create categories of information. Then you can start stacking or grouping tiles that are in the same category.
- For example, if you are writing an essay about teenagers and the use of electronic cigarettes, you could have notes related to the age at which they started using them, the reasons why they decided to do so, and their exposure to tobacco or nicotine. before starting use.
- If you use a digital note-taking application, you will generally classify your notes by adding tags to them. Some notes may have more than one label, depending on the information they cover.
Step 3. Order the categories in a way that answers the research question
Go through your categories and try to formulate a logical order that answers your questions or tells the persuasive story you want to tell through your research. You may have to rearrange them more than once to find what works best for you.
For example, imagine your research has indicated that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to use regular cigarettes if someone in their home smoked. The category that covers teens' tobacco or nicotine exposure before they used e-cigarettes is most likely the first thing you talk about in your essay, assuming you want to put the strongest evidence first
Step 4. Make a basic outline for the essay based on the order of the categories
Now that you have sorted the categories, you are ready to create a general essay outline. Keep in mind that this could change when you start writing, but for now, it will give you guidance and help you identify any problems or weaknesses in your research.
- You can make the outline as detailed or simple as you like, unless the teacher has specific requirements for it. Some people prefer full sentences in their outlines, while others have sections with just one or two words.
- Working methodically on the outline can help you identify the information you don't yet have that you need to support your thesis or answer the research question.
Step 5. Review your notes and modify your research question as necessary
As you investigate, you may have noticed that you were not asking the right question. You may also have discovered that there is more information available than you thought and you may have to narrow your focus.
Even at this advanced stage, feel free to change your question to formulate your research more accurately. Through research, you will know much more about the topic than you did when you first started writing the question, so it is only natural that you will identify ways to improve it
Step 6. Look for additional sources to fill in the gaps in your research
As you review your notes and outline, you may find that some points are better supported than others. You may also find small issues that you didn't notice that you need to address.
- For example, when running the essay outline on teens and e-cigarette use, you might notice that they don't have any information about how they can access them and whether this access is legal or illegal. If you are writing an essay about teens using e-cigarettes as a public health problem, this is information you need to know.
- It is also likely that as you formulated your outline, you discovered that you do not need some sources that you previously considered valuable. In this situation, you may have to search for more fonts, especially if removing one has put you below the minimum font requirement requested for your assignment.
- Begin the investigation as soon as you can after receiving the assignment. If you leave it to the last minute, you won't have time to research the topic properly. You may also notice that you have overlooked important information or made mistakes because you were in a rush to finish.
- Dividing the research process into small parts and doing a little bit each day can help you manage your time. Plan on spending at least as much time as writing research, or even more.