2: The Research Process:
Section 4 of 6, OVERVIEW, page 1 of 1.
Have a researching plan ... or at least a pretty good idea what is involved
The gathering of information may not be so linear a process as is the process of writing, but it is something that you need to plan for. Make time for it and have a method for doing it.
Getting interactive—seeing and doing (rather than just reading) is how this tutorial will show you how to obtain the information you need. The next few modules of this tutorial will show you how to use the resources of the Troy University Libraries to access information sources. You will see, step-by-step, how to use the Library Catalog and databases to access books, articles, music, images, and more. Along the way you will be introduced to research techniques and terminology, and see, first hand, how to document information sources.
But (there's always a but), before we get there, some preliminary advice is offered.
THIS IS VITAL: Start your research early to ensure that information is available for your project. Sometimes you need to narrow, broaden, modify, or change your topic (with instructor approval, of course).
Unless you are just locating one piece of information—e.g., a specific fact or piece of literature—the gathering of information is a process.
Understand the types of information you will require.
- How important is the currency of the information?
- Has the instructor specified the formats of the information that are required or that are acceptable, e.g., books, articles, or Web sites? Can you use your text book or a general encyclopedia?
- Consider what formats of information are best suited to your topic. For example, a financial newspaper such as The Wall Street Journal is a great place for current business news, but sources such as books are better suited for reading about the French Revolution.
- Regardless of the format of the information, the type of information you need may be dictated by the instructor and/or the nature of the research you are doing. Specifically:
What mix of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources is required or appropriate?
Are popular or general information sources acceptable or appropriate, or do you need to use material that is designated as refereed or peer-reviewed?
FYI: Module 7 of this tutorial, Evaluating Resources, details many of the terms used just above.
Consider the terms involved (i.e., the words and concepts associated with your topic). Write them down.
- Make a record of those terms with which you are not familiar and look up their meaning.
- Think of synonyms and related terms. If available, use a thesaurus within the database you are searching (you'll see how this works later in the tutorial).
Know where to look.
- If you don't know where to look, ask—ask your instructor or librarian. Where you look will be heavily dependent upon knowing what you are looking for (scholarly articles, a book review, a company report?). That it is why it is important to determine your information needs before you start looking.
- Keep detailed records of what terms you searched for, and where and how you searched. As you discover new terms or ways of expressing your subject, add them to your search process.
Save and record.
Save, save, save. If the information is in an electronic format and it is practical to keep your own copy, then do so. Save print copies of articles and other materials that do not need to be returned to the library. Save a photocopy of the title page of books or similar documents that you cannot keep. The title page is not the cover of the book, it is usually three pages in. The title page should include information such as the full book title and subtitle; the names of the authors, editors, or translators; the publisher and place of publication. Note that the copyright page, where the publication date is provided, is usually the page that follows the title page.
Tip: Although it may seem unnecessary to hang onto your research material forever, the real world advice is to do just that. Save it after you receive your grade on the assignment—save it after you receive your term grade—and save it at least until (or even after), you have your diploma in hand.
Record, record, record. Whether you use cards, paper, or a computer, it is vital to keep one hundred percent accurate records of your information sources. As you will soon see, every time you use an outside information source in writing your paper, you will need to document it. At some point in the writing process, you will need to write down all sorts of information about the source.
- The complete title and subtitle.
- All authors, editors, and translators.
- For books: The publisher, place of publication, and publication date.
- For articles: The name of magazine, journal, newspaper, etc., in which the article was contained. The page numbers on which the article appeared. Any numbering associated with the publication, e.g., volume and number.
- For Internet sites, the complete Web address, the date of access, and the name of any organization affiliated with the site (one that might be considered the publisher).
- For material (books, articles, etc.) from library databases, record the name of the database.
- And more...
There are dozens of types of information sources, e.g., musical compositions, personal interviews, works of art, etc. Consult the appropriate style manual (e.g., MLA, APA, Turabian), in order to know what information to record for each source you use.
Read the information you have gathered and make notes.
- This is where research intersects with writing.
- On cards, paper, or a computer, make notes—notes you will use to write your paper from.
- Develop a system that works for you and use it consistently. The Troy University Writing Center has a handout, available online, on note taking, and each of the recommended reading books, listed in the gray box on the previous page, has a section on this topic.
END OF SECTION: OVERVIEW, Have a researching plan
HOW TO NAVIGATE THIS TUTORIAL:
Click here to go to the top of this screen.
End of this screen.