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 • Research and the Research Paper
 • Grammar
 • The Writing Process
 • Special Kinds of Writing
 • Modes of Exposition
 • Critical Thinking

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  Home > InfoWrite > Research and the Research Paper > Strategies for Conducting Research
 

InfoTrac College Edition

Strategies for Conducting Research

Each research assignment poses unique challenges. One paper may require extensive library or Internet research, while another will be based on field research, interviews, original experiments, or surveys. No matter what your topic, there are a few general strategies you can follow to save time and produce a more effective paper.

1.     REVIEW THE ASSIGNMENT
Many instructors provide students with a detailed description of the research paper. Make sure you fully understand what is required. If you have any questions, ask your instructor for help.
2.     SELECT PROPOSED TOPICS AND CONDUCT PRELIMINARY RESEARCH
Develop an overview of your subject by reading background information. Refer to your textbooks, encyclopedias, and abstracts to learn basic terms, details, and personalities. Use an Internet search to gain an overall view of current research.
3     REVIEW YOUR TOPIC AND NARROW IF NEEDED
4.     SURVEY THE RANGE OF EVIDENCE
* Is enough evidence available for your project?
* Do sources agree or are there areas of conflict or controversy?
* Can you evaluate the quality of sources? Do you detect signs of bias, incomplete research, lapses of critical thinking?
* Do you note any trends or patterns in the sources?
5.     POSE QUESTIONS TO SELECT SOURCES AND DEVELOP A WORKING THESIS
6.     REFER TO THE INSTRUCTOR'S ASSIGNMENT OR GUIDELINES TO TARGET YOUR RESEARCH
You may encounter a number of sources that are interesting but not relevant to your assignment. Focus on the needs of the assignment.
7.     CREATE A TIMELINE TO KEEP RESEARCH ON TRACK
Don't allow the research to expand beyond a fixed date. Leave ample time for writing, revising, and editing.
8.     RECORD INFORMATION NEEDED FOR CITATIONS
When you take notes, photocopy pages, or print items from the Internet, make sure you record all the information needed to cite the source.
* Write the information on the back of photocopies and directly on your notecards.
9.     LABEL OR COLOR CODE SOURCES AND NOTES FOR EASY REFERENCE
As you collect materials, label them or use Post-it notes to flag reminders so you will know where to use sources.
10.     AVOID COLLECTING REDUNDANT INFORMATION
If your paper about the Civil War requires some background on Gettysburg, you may only need one or two sources -- not five or six.
* Keep the assignment and desired length of the paper in mind as you collect material.
11.     REVISE YOUR OUTLINE AS YOU COLLECT SOURCES
As you find sources, sketch out where they might appear in the final paper. If you wait until you collect all the data, you may find organizing them in logical pattern difficult.
* If you use a computer, save the various versions of your outline so you can return to them if you discard sources.
12.     PRIORITIZE SOURCES
Consider which sources are the most valuable and should appear in the paper. Note those sources you would be willing to delete if you run out of time or find yourself writing a paper that is longer than desired.
13.     WHILE RESEARCHING, KEEP THE FINAL PAPER IN MIND
Refer to any sample papers your instructor may have given you to guide the type and number of sources you are collecting.
14.     REVISE AND REFINE YOUR THESIS IF NEEDED

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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.