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Planning Your Research

Planning Your Research

Questions to ask yourself and things to consider before beginning your research

1. For what PURPOSE is the research being done?
What do you want to be able to say as a result of the research?  For example, you may want to know:
"How does hot air rise?" 
"What do people think of a celebrity couple's break-up?"
"Why is a president’s term only four years?"

2. What KINDS OF INFORMATION are needed to make the point that you want to make?
For example, do you need to gather information about:
How something works?
What people think of something?
Or why certain events happened in history?
The How, What, and Whys are all very important things to determine before you start your research.

3. From WHAT sources should the information be collected?
If you are researching people's opinions, then a magazine or newspaper may be a good source of information.  However, if you are researching an academic subject, e.g.: history or science, then scholarly sources, like encyclopedias or other reference books, would be your most reliable sources.  Some Web-sites, such as sites ending in .gov, .edu, and/or .org may be reliable sources of information too.  (Please see the Ten C's page for guidelines on evaluating a web-site for reliability).

4. Who is your AUDIENCE?
If it a casual write-up for friends to read, then you want to plan to use an informal writing style (first person and mild use of slang words).  But you're planning to write a formal paper that your teacher will read, then you will want to use a formal style of writing (third person, no slang or abbreviations, and formal citation of your references according to MLA format).

5. WHEN is the information needed?
This is a very important aspect to consider when forming a paper.  It is a good idea to sit down and to write out 2 lists before starting the research for your paper:
              1. A list of things that you have to do in order to get your research done. 
              2. And a list of your available study time.
With these 2 lists, it is a good idea to put them side by side and decide when you are going to get your work done in the amount of time that you have.
You may want to time yourself in how long it takes you to find a paper and/or how long it takes you to finish reading one article or chapter.  This way you will be able to better manage your time by knowing how long you will need to read 3 articles, etc.

6. What RESOURCES are available to collect the information?
If it’s really hard for you to get to a library to use certain materials, such as encyclopedias, then you may not want to do a report that requires a lot of factual information.  Instead, you may want to try and do a paper that relies more on public opinion (if you are able to choose), which comes from more from newspapers and magazines. Newspaper and magazine articles are generally being easier to find online, say from your home computer. See our reseach links for a list of online databases.

Research suggestion
First, it is a good idea to know your terms...knowing them can make researching much easier.
Keyword: Usually one word that summarizes a topic very well; sometimes there could be keywords. 
Topic: A subject, like of a paper or of a thought; a theme, a paragraph, an issue, a focus or the point of a paper.
Phrase: A brief expression, sometimes a single word, but usually two or more words forming an expression by themselves; a portion of a sentence;
Catalog: A complete list of things; usually arranged systematically, e.g.: the Card Catalog in the library is used to search through the list of books that the library has on your topic.
Citation: A short note giving credit to the original author, or something that tells where you got your quote or idea from. 
Abstract: A summary of the main points of a paper.  If you are searching for a research article, then it is easier to read through abstracts rather than entire articles.
Summary of steps for starting your research
              1. Choose your topic.
              2. Determine keywords or phrases that will help you search for information.
              3. Find out the information requirements for the research, like which types of sources are needed.
              4. Which kind of audience will you be writing for? Should sources be popular or scholarly? This will help you determine where you will need to gather information from.
              5. Do you need current information or historical information and how much? 
              6. Sit down and make a timeline of getting your research done.

Next steps for turning your research into an essay 
              7. Gather research from books, periodicals and/or Internet sources.             8. Next sit down and make an outline of what you plan to write about. Remember to give supporting details and to make citations of where you got your information from.
              9. Write a rough draft
              10. Ask a friend, teacher or parent read your rough draft. Also ask them to add suggestions.
              11. Write a final draft and turn in.

Remember not to be shy in asking for any help!!!!