Conducting research is an essential part of your assignment preparation process, and it can oftentimes seem overwhelming. Finding the right information for your school projects is not that hard, however, if you approach the matter in a well organised manner and consider a few key aspects. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to approach your research to find proper resources for your paper.
Identify Your Topic, Focus or Angle
Sometimes, your teachers will allow you to choose your own topic, while other times they will assign you one – even so, you will usually still need to think about an angle or find a more narrow focus for your task. Before starting your quest for resources, first do some preliminary research to ensure you understand your topic and find an angle or focus you feel more comfortable with and about which you can find good information.
Ensure You Understand Your Assignment
There are many things you need to determine about your task before you start looking for information.
- What type of paper will you be writing? Persuasive essay, research paper, or maybe an analysis piece?
- Are there any gaps in your knowledge you need to cover before getting started?
- How much information will you need?
- What must you find out?
- Are there any hints provided in the instructions that you must keep in mind?
Determine the Sort of Information You Need
- Do you need analyses, opinions, facts, research studies, or a mix of all?
- What format should your sources have? Online sources may provide a basic intro to your topic, books may offer highly detailed explanations, while journals and statistics databases are the best sources to find evidence.
- Do your sources need to be up to date (as in the case of scientific discoveries, for instance) or can you just as well use information written in the 80’s?
Start Your Research
- Determine the best places to find the right information for your assignment. Wikipedia is usually not one of them. You can try Google Scholar, e-journals, online academic databases, or your institution’s library.
- Find the right keywords to look for information online. Think of alternative terms or synonyms as well.
- If you’ve been searching for a while using the keywords identified earlier and still haven’t found anything, you may need to rethink your strategy.
- Look for different words to search or try other resources – or, in the worst case scenario, you might need to rethink your topic and find a more accessible focus or angle.
- Use filters and advanced search options to get the most relevant information. Most search tools allow you the option to filter the results according to various criteria. Don’t be afraid to use these features to find, for instance, only works written by a specific author or only papers published this year.
Evaluate What You Find
While not finding enough resources for your assignment might be quite an issue, finding too many or wrong ones can be a nightmare. Once you’ve gathered your data, it is essential to analyse it carefully to weed out irrelevant information and assess the quality of your sources.
- Who is making the claims in the sources you’ve found?
- Where and how did they get their information?
- Do they offer evidence to back their claims? Is the evidence credible?
- Is the information supported by other scholars?
- Is it possible the author may be biased or have a hidden agenda?
- Is the material filled with vague terms, generalizations or one-sided arguments? These are all red flags.
- Is the information up to date?
Consider all these facts before deciding to use any material found to ensure you won’t start writing your assignment based on the wrong premises.