Thursday, 7 May 2015

Not another research paper! Part 2

1. Topic/Research Question
2. Pre-search
3. Research
4. Outline
5. Research
6. Fill-in-the-blanks
7. Edit

I can hear you saying now, "OK, pre-search is not even a word."  You caught me.  It's not really a word but it does describe a helpful concept.

Ever have a topic given that you know nothing about?  This is what pre-search helps with.

*unfounded statistic--85% of understanding a new subject is learning the vocabulary*

When you are doing your research, you need to know proper search terms to get the information that will help you answer your research question.  Knowing the vocabulary that is used in conjunction with the topic and how it might relate to other things is vital.  Especially if some of the terms have other meanings in different disciplines.

For example "colon" in English and grammar is vastly different from "colon" in internal medicine!

REMEMBER: the pre-search you do is just a starting point and won't really be used as the research sources you cite in your paper.

With the knowledge that you won't be using these as your authoritative sources (we'll learn more about that in the "research" step) two good and easy ways to find out more about your subject is to:

1. Google it (essentially just run an internet search)
2. Go to Wikipedia*

Sounds simple, right?  Well, it is.  The challenging part comes in when you are evaluating whether or not the results you come up with are accurate and reliable enough to go on.  For that, I recommend looking at at least 5 different results and find what matches up.  If 5 completely different websites are discussing the same topic using similar vocabulary, then it's a safe bet you'll find good information from reputable sources using those as search terms.

Once you get started on your pre-search and are finding more terms and related subjects, write them all down.  You are writing a paper, right? So practice writing everything down (or type/cut and paste into a document, whatever works for you) to leave a trail of breadcrumbs in case you need to retrace your steps.  You never know when the side-idea you have while reading will turn into a major discussion point down the road.

That's it for Step 2 in writing your research paper!

*I am compelled to emphasize that you will NOT be using Wikipedia as your authoritative source in your works cited page but we'll get more into that with the next step.

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