Research. Finding credible sources. The most terrifying words you’ll hear in your entire academic career. Just hearing them made me go into denial:
“What? What do you mean I have to form an opinion? Wait, wait, you mean I can’t just say whatever I feel like? I have to look for…facts and evidence?”
Yes. You’ve got to do all that, and I know it can be a lot of work. It doesn’t have to be so terrible, though! Good research is systematic. It follows a certain logic as you develop what you want to say. You might be dreading all that time you’ll spend combing through textbooks and clickin’ around the internet, but if you follow what I’m about to tell you…
…and really focus…
…you can finish your research in a day. In. A. Day.
Step One: Take A Position!
Before you even begin your research, you’ve got to know what you want to say. Take some time to read the assignment, understand the expectations, and develop an opinion on the subject. This is going to make things a lot easier for you in the long run. Let’s just say your topic is:
“Is climate change real?”
Decide if your answer is yes or no, and begin thinking about your reasons. It sounds obvious, I know, but SOME people have been known to just pick the easiest standpoint to get the assignment done as quickly as possible. Don’t be that person. Think about it!
Step Two: Find A…Book? At The…Library?
Yes. They exist for a reason. You can find the most credible sources of knowledge in actual books! Imagine that! Decide what your answer is, then take an hour or two to look for a few library books about your subject. Look through them and pay special attention to certain sections that can help support your main point. Then, take them with you and refer back to them as your prime research materials. Looking for a book should always be your first step; they can help you think of more specific things to say, which makes your research more specific as result.
Step Three: Find Some Journals
Next, you’ll want to search for some academic journals. In my opinion, some of the best academic journal databases are EBSCOHost, JSTOR, and Google Scholar, but there are so many others, so experiment and find out which one you like best. Your college or university will most likely have a subscription to many of these databases, so go crazy. Remember those specific points you got from those books? You can use those to search for articles devoted to those points!
So if you’re arguing that climate change isn’t real, and changes in sea level is one of your main points, you’ll look for those articles that support both your ideas and those in your books. As you find more articles that support them, you’ll continue to refine your own argument. Aha! We’re getting more and more precise as we go!
If these processes seem complicated so far, you can also chat with tutors for English homework help. They’ll help you pick resources for your project, build an outline, and craft your paper.
Step Four: Yeah Alright, Now You Can Run To The Internet
At this point, you couldn’t get more specific if you tried. Now, it’s all about proving your point. Look for quality sources on the internet. You’ll be looking for quick statistics, helpful numbers, and short quotes that you can sprinkle into your paper.
At this stage, you’d be looking for numbers that reflect changing or consistent sea levels to support your previous research. I know they’re the easiest to find, but internet sources should be the last thing you look at. Anybody can go online and publish anything they want without having it reviewed. Keep an eye out for credible sites—ones where you’ll find articles with a clear author you can cite, and who has cited information themselves. When you leave those sources for the end of your research, you already know what your paper is about, and now it’s just a matter of finding figures and evidence that support all those books and journals!
Step Five: Trim The Fat
So now you’ve got bunch of books, academic journals, websites, and a rough draft of your research paper. Great! Now start cutting the stuff you don’t need with some good and disciplined habits. A lot of professors give you a minimum of number of sources they want for each medium—2 books, 3 journals, 2 websites, etc. If you’re going for the minimum, then make sure you have the best material you can find! If you’re going for only 2 books, they better give you a TON of information and support every point you make. You should never wonder whether to use a source or not. Make them work for you!
And that’s it! When you’ve got all your sources ready, make sure you cite them all correctly! If you don’t know how to cite, you can visit the OWL Purdue website to brush up on all the different styles. As I said earlier, if you follow these tips and stay focused, you can have your research done in a day (I’m serious)! Now go!