For most students the word "research" means surfing the Internet in search of any relevant topic data. Such approach does not work for good academic writing. First, the Internet does not control the quality of information appearing on your screen. Second (more important), in most cases the search engine will not lead you to the right type of information. So, how can you make the best of your research? Read the following tips that will help you to research efficiently. The research process involves four steps:
1. Find background information of your subject. Once you have defined the topic of your writing, use references from the list of the recommended literature to spot background information of your subject. Do some preliminary reading of general reference material, like an encyclopedia, dictionary, or other reference source.
2. Plan and search. Where can I find information on my essay topic?
- In books or government documents ( use the library catalogue to find out what books and documents are available )
- In periodicals (look up an article index to know what articles have been published.)
- On the Internet.
This stage suggests processing a lot of information and finding the material pertinent to your subject. So you will have to do extensive reading of the sources you come across. Not to be tired and bored by looking through tons of information use the formula of "SQ3R": Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review.
Survey - find the relevant sources of information. When you evaluate this or that book or article, pay attention to: date of publication (you are not writing memoirs), contents and index page; preface, first and last paragraphs.
Question - before reading, ask yourself what you expect to find out from this book( article). It will systematize your reading as you proceed.
Read - the purpose of your reading is to find the vivid and powerful arguments to support your idea in the shortest possible time. Using the following reading techniques you will get the most of the material you have read:
Skimming the contents you get its general idea.
Scanning allows you find the material you need.
Doing search reading you concentrate on the meaning of the specific terms.
Perusing the text you should note down the information you are going to use in your essay.
Reading may turn out to be a tiring and monotonous pastime for you. To refresh your mind take regular breaks off. Your reading should be conscious. Make sure you understand every idea presented in the book (article).
As you are researching compile a working bibliography (running list of the material you read), later it will serve as a basis for your list of Works Cited.
3. Evaluate the information you have found.The quality of your essay depends on the sources you have used for it . That is why you should be able to differentiate between the authoritative and trivial information. All the sources of information are divided into two large categories: online or printed materials. As you evaluate the sources, mind the following:
Magazines and newspapers are meant for general public rather than for academic purposes. Do not support a significant argument or idea of your essay only with a fact originated from the magazines as the data here is often invalid and subjective.
Journal articles usually focus on research and experiment results and discuss latest innovations in science as well as controversial issues in science. Moreover they are peer-reviewed and carefully edited. Such approach guarantees reliability and objectiveness of the information you are going to include into your essays.
The Internet gives a more superficial look at the problem than the printed editions, without the deep insight into the problem as in the printed academic sources. But using organized subject directories, particularly those assembled by professors and academic librarians you can come across some useful information. Subject directories are built by hand and usually contain only links screened for quality and value.
4. Identify and include the most vivid and convincing facts and evidence into your writing. Do not fail to note down the source of every quote you are going to include in your essay when you are still exploring the information.
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