If you are writing an analytical/compare and contrast paper, or an argumentative persuasive essay, then you will require research evidence to support your argument.
How much research you will need to do will depend on:
RESEARCH AS INQUIRY
Here are some questions to think about (or ask yourself) when trying to figure out the scope of your research inquiry. Creating a concept map, or brainstorming what you already know about a topic, can help you to identify areas you may want to explore further.
Information comes in a variety of packages, including:
Producers of this kind of information include commercial publishers, organizations, professional associations, higher education institutions, research "think tanks", and government. These more traditional sources of information are what students typically use when writing academic essays. Some of these sources come from commercial publishers (books and articles), while others are published as grey literature.
With the advent of social media, students can also access less traditional sources of information, such as:
Producers of this kind of information include the same groups listed above as well as anyone who has access to Internet. While not a traditional source of information, social media networks are often some of the first to report on breaking news events or provide commentary and can have just as much value as some of the more traditional sources depending on the kind of essay you are writing.
Whether you’re using print or online sources, you will have to look in a variety of places in order to find information. It is unrealistic to expect to find everything by doing a simple Google search. While this may be a good place to start, you will need to search more than Google. It is important to not only to find information but to find good information. After all, your research should be the most appropriate and best for your paper, not just the easiest to access.
The next tabs in this guide introduce you to the various search tools available, effective search techniques, as well as strategies to evaluate the quality of the information you find.
INFORMATION CREATION AS PROCESS
Here are some questions to think about (or ask yourself) when trying to figure out the kinds of information sources that might best support your research. As you can see, there are many ways in which information is made available, and in many formats.
The search tools researchers typically use are Google, Google Scholar, Summon, and a variety of specialized research databases:
For a description of these search tools click on the following links:
To choose a search tool, ask yourself the following questions:
If you are looking for commercially published information such as journals, books, magazines and newspapers, you’ll find them via the Library's collection using tools like Google Scholar, Summon and our specialized research databases. If you are looking for government information, publications from organizations or associations, as well as non-commercially published information (grey literature), search the open Internet using Google or any other search engine.
SEARCHING AS STRATEGIC EXPLORATION
Here are some questions to think about (or ask yourself) when trying to figure out which search tool or research database you might use to begin your research. As you can see, your choice of search tool will depend a lot on the type of information you need, and who is producing it, and where they make it available for searching.
To determine what keywords to use when searching, write out your question on a piece of paper and then underline the words in your question that best express what it is you are looking for. For example, if this is my research question:
In what ways does neighborhood violence factor into public park use?
I would focus in on the bolded words:
In what ways does neighborhood violence factor into public park use?
Then, I would construct my search as follows:
neighbourhoods AND violence AND public parks
If I am not happy with my search results I could think of synonyms for my search terms, then try a new search.
Instead of neighbourhoods, I could also try:
neighborhoods (spelled the American way)
Similarly, if I am not happy with public parks, I could try:
urban parks or public spaces or playgrounds
So, I could do additional searches that are similar to my first search, and get more results for my research question.
As you look through your search results, pay particular attention to the words the authors are using as well as the subject headings some articles will provide, as these can give you ideas for keywords to try in future searches.
*Remember, you want to find good information on your topic, and in order to find good information, plan to spend time searching.
For more information on search strategies, see the videos and guides on the following pages:
If you are suffering from "keyword search burnout", there are other methods for finding material. These methods should be regularly employed as part of your search process.
Tips for evaluating search results:
Doing research to find resources for your paper will take time. While it is tempting to use only the first few resources you find, they may not necessarily be the best resources for your purposes, so it is important to evaluate the resources as you find them. Doing this will help you to determine whether or not you need to find more resources, or if you can stop searching and move on to the next stage of the writing process.
Reading abstracts is a quick way to determine the quality or usefulness of a resource. Most databases you search will provide abstracts along with the title of the work, the author(s), and the publisher.
The four main points you want to think about when evaluating an article are:
Finding sources appropriate for academic research requires time and critical thought.
AUTHORITY IS CONSTRUCTED AND CONTEXTUAL
Here are some questions to think about (or ask yourself) when evaluating a resource you might use for your research project or essay.
A citation manager is a piece of software that allows you to store and organize your collection of resources in an electronic format so that you can instantly generate bibliographies in APA style.
Citation manager options:
There are several citation manager products on the market. For a more detailed comparison of citation managers, their features, and their costs, view Wikipedia's comparison of reference management software, or the Library's citation manager guide.
If you are interested in learning more about the other citation manager software, a Google or YouTube search will bring up "how-to" videos and documentation that you can further explore.
INFORMATION HAS VALUE
It is really important to give credit to the ideas or information you use in your research. Not only because it helps you to avoid plagiarism (which can have serious academic penalties!), but you yourself might get published some day and as an author you will want others to properly attribute all the hard work you've done.