Step 1- Write A Research Question
What is a research question?
A research question answers the question what do I want to know about this topic? A research question is a key component of your research paper as it frames the direction of exploration of a topic. An effective research question has the following characteristics:
- Is an engaging question- this inquiry should interest you and your audience
- Is clear and concise- someone reading this question can understand what you are trying to answer
- Is not too broad or too narrow: The question is appropriate for the scope of the paper.
- Is focused: The question identifies specific points to consider
For more guidance on writing a research topic, use these resources:
From George Mason University http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/?p=307
From Empire State Colelge
Step 2: Identify subtopics and keywords
Articulate specific questions and condense your main ideas into important words
Break down your research question into subtopics. Develop questions that address specific points you want to explore in this paper. Identify the most important word or phrase for each sentence.
Step 3: Explore Resources
- Search for books and articles
Rreference Books (good for background information)
Search Credo Reference, a collection of specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries, and field guides. Of specific interest:
Search the Griswold Library catalog for print and electronic books.
- Unless your topic is very well known (Pompeii for example), search for the broad category of your topic.
- For example, search for volcanoes instead of Mt. St. Helens.
Academic Search Complete is a general database covering a wide range of topic. This database include peer-reviewed articles and articles from the popular press.
BioOne provides scholarly articles in the fields of biology, ecology, and environmental science.
Proquest Research Library is a general database covering a wide range of topic. This database inlcude peer-reviewed articles and articles from the popular press.
JSTOR- An archival database, this resource provides current and historical scholarly articles on a variety of subjects.
- Search for the specific topic
- For example, search for Mt. St. Helens instead of volcanoes
Identify peer reviewed articles
Is this article peer-reviewed?
Clicking on the "full-text box" in a database will give all the articles published a peer-reviewed journal, not just those that are peer-reviewed. If your article contains these characteristics, then it probably has been peer-reviewed.
- Author credentials- the author(s) are identified and associated with an outside organization
- Abstract- peer-reviewed articles are often lengthy and an abstract will briefly identify the main points of the article
- Original research- the authors(s) will develop a hypothesis and will prove or disprove this idea through research beyond reading other people's work on this subject
- References- other work on this subject will be referenced throughout the article
- Visuals- often (but not always) the data collected in the research process will be illustrated in charts, graphs, photographs, or other visual material
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