Unit 2: Researching: How, What, When, Where, and Why
If you are already working on a writing project, you most likely are well aware that you often need to start writing to discover all of your ideas about a subject. In this unit, we will take the discovery process a bit further by exploring how identifying, analyzing, and making effective use of others' work can do even more to clarify your viewpoint and refine your thesis.
We will begin by looking at research as a concept. By now, you should feel a little more comfortable thinking of yourself as a researcher, and you may be anxious to get started. To get you off on the right foot, we will look at how analysis and planning can streamline your research efforts and help you make the best use of your findings. After that, we will dig deeper into the research process itself. Besides learning more about traditional library research methods, you will have a chance to get acquainted with methods for conducting research in person, on your computer, and on the Internet.
We will also define primary and secondary sources and will look at some of the merits of using both of these types of information. We will spend quite a bit of time reviewing the tools and techniques for researching on the Internet. You will have a chance to explore some of the most useful Internet sites for locating both printed and online information, and you will start to get a clearer idea about where to look for information in specific disciplines and to fulfill specific purposes.
Finally, we will acknowledge the importance of keeping research well-organized and clearly documented. You will get a chance to practice the best techniques for recording, organizing, and annotating the source information you want to use.
By the end of this unit, you should have a good understanding of how to carry out your research in an organized, thoughtful manner. You should also have the opportunity to complete much of the preliminary research for your final paper and to identify any information gaps that may require further investigation.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 17 hours.
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- discuss the basic theory and concepts of research;
- explain how to analyze your topic and plan research, as well as demonstrate moderate expertise in topic analysis and research planning;
- practice researching in physical and online media;
- differentiate between primary and secondary sources, and understand the advantages and disadvantages of both;
- differentiate between printed and online sources, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both;
- explain how to use the tools and techniques associated with researching on the Internet; and
- develop practical techniques for recording, organizing, and documenting research information.
2.1: Recording and Organizing Your Findings
Before we will discuss the details of the research process, we will explore some note-taking tools and strategies, so you can begin taking organized notes from the outset of your research.
2.1.1: Note Taking Tools
Later in this unit, you will learn about several tools to help you organize your research. For now, explore the Evernote, a free and easy tool that allows you to collect and annotate electronic articles easily.
This resource is optional. This is a free resource, but you will need to create an account to use it. Once you have done so, examine the features available through this site to become familiar with some of the latest methods of recording and organizing research on the Internet.
This free tool requires registration and is not required for this course. It is provided here as a reference for those who might find it useful.
2.1.2: Using a Reverse Outline
A reverse outline is a great way to summarize an article or book. It is often used as a technique for editing an essay or research paper of your own.
Watch this brief video on reverse outlining. Take notes so that you remember the technique while you are reviewing and taking notes on your research articles. Then, practice writing a reverse outline of one of the resources you plan to use in your research paper.
2.2: Getting Started with Your Research
2.2.1: How to Begin Your Research
Read this section and complete the exercises using your own research topic. These exercises will guide you through the process of gathering your initial research. At the end of these exercises, you will have a good number of reliable resources you may use for your research paper.
2.2.2: Investigating Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Sources
Read this chapter for information on finding and evaluating research sources, and complete the writing activities. This chapter will cover types of sources as well as the credibility of both print and electronic resources.
Read this presentation to learn more about the difference between popular sources and peer-reviewed journals. Be able to identify the differences between scholarly sources, substantial news sources, and popular sources.
The links here go to pages with certain information (such as specific scholarly journals) that are available only to those affiliated with the Duke University libraries. You may want to print this page or make note of some of these journal titles and topics so that you can access them through other sources or through your public library. You also may want to bookmark these pages for future reference.
Try this interactive overview of scholarly articles. Read each section carefully. Think about what makes these types of articles different from substantial news sources and popular sources.
Watch the short video for information on how to identify scholarly journal articles and substantive news articles to use for research papers. Take some extra time to correlate the sections of this video with the different sections of Anatomy of a Scholarly Article.
Watch this video for information about scholarly journal articles and how to find them online. Try out Google Scholar with your own topic.
2.3: Reviewing and Evaluating Your Sources
Working with your outline and list of research questions you developed so far, identify the primary and secondary sources that will answer each research question. Your goal is to have at least five primary sources and five secondary sources. You may find that you have to revise your outline or develop new research questions as you work on this activity. If you do, do not worry; this is a normal outcome of researching a topic in depth. You may also need to do additional research.
Unit 2 Assessment
- Receive a grade
Take this assessment to see how well you understood this unit.
- This assessment does not count towards your grade. It is just for practice!
- You will see the correct answers when you submit your answers. Use this to help you study for the final exam!
- You can take this assessment as many times as you want, whenever you want.