As a rule, research skills are not taught at college at all – professors just assume students already know or they just can figure out how to conduct a thorough research on their own. This article is developed to help students to get basic research skills of finding, organizing and availing of the information they need to put together in a solid research project.
- Make a to-do list. Build up a schedule with a list of tasks you have to complete by a specific date. For instance, find 15 sources by October 14; accomplish preliminary research by November 7. Stick to this schedule. You’ll be in need of time to figure out what material is there for you in the local library, choose the most relevant information, read it attentively, put down notes, and then stick it all together – and to conduct a second part of research to clear up the main points you’ve raised in the first draft writing.
- Dig for bibliographies. Once you’ve run into a solid academic essay on your topic or a book – you’re in a gold mine! At the end of the book you can find a list of sources to use. Note down all the titles that are linked to your research. Academic writers are not creative about choosing their titles, thus, it will be really easy to tell what their work is about from the very first look at the title. Soon you will have a long list of sources.
- Try to cope with one piece of information at a time. Don’t try to deal with the whole subject at once. Generate an outline of the things you have to complete and deal with each piece of information at a time. You’ll figure out the links between these pieces when you work on your first draft.
- Know your offline and online resources. Give some time to know what offline and online resources you’ve at your disposal. You may talk to a research librarian or avail of library tour to get the sense of what is there for you, paying attention to the periodicals and microfilm repository that you’ll have to use a lot in the process of researching.
- Ask for assistance. Don’t be afraid to approach your tutor for help. The majority of professors spend hours at their offices waiting for students to drop in. Approach your tutor for assistance with finding and evaluating information sources, or figuring out how to organize the material you have already collected. One of the other helpful resources is your friendly librarian from the neighbourhood. The thing is that librarians have committed their lives to making useful information more available for students. Moreover, some librarians may even find some hard-to-find pieces of information especially for you. Don’t be shy to approach your college pal for help – perhaps, he may come across the topic linked to the one you’re assigned with.
- Mind the publication date. Pay special attention to the material publication date – while it is ok to make use of older material, it is recommended to refer to the material from not more than last 10 years. One of the pieces of good advice is to Google the most significant researchers whose works you’ve come across to find out if there are their homepages on the web. If yes, try to get in touch with the researcher, explain what you’re working on and what you need to find out. Never ask him for the references list or how your thesis should look like – the point is that nobody wants to accomplish student’s project for them.
A professor or a librarian is always there to land you a helping hand. Internet information is trickier for the reason that nowadays it is really easy to put up a website that looks quite professional and says whatever you need. Until you’re 100% conformable with information in your chosen field, it is recommended to avail of famous sources like web sites endorsed by your department or library or Wikipedia.