Saturday, 16 May 2015

Not another research paper! Part 5

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

NO! No huffing with impatience!  This is not a repeat of Step 3.  This is a refinement.  You don't get gold from rock without some effort.  You don't get seedless jelly without straining the fruit.

So, you've got some resources, you wrote your outline, now go back and make sure that the sources you have say what will support your point.  If some are weak or questionable, go search again for more resources.

Personal guideline: Your teacher will probably tell you how many resources he/she wants you to use.  My advice is, look for twice as many and then you can weed through and use the best!

So, since we already talked about how to evaluate your sources, let me expand on places to look for reliable information.  If you are looking in places that are reliable to start with, you make that evaluation process a bit easier.

First off, this is where I tell you why you can only use Wikipedia* for pre-search and not as one of your authoritative sources.

Where to start...

  • Anybody can edit it at anytime.  Which means that an expert can write it and a scoundrel can change it and you wouldn't be able to tell.
  • It has a lot of trivial information (example:  how important is the detailed definition of "bromance"?)
  • Even the less controversial entries have problems.  Here's a tip even I didn't know until recently.  When you go to any entry, there are two tabs at the top.  One is the article and one is labeled "talk".  This is an enlightening series of arguments for and against points in the actual entry.  It will really  make you doubt the truthfulness of anything you just read. 


I would recommend these as your go-to place to find resources.
This is as if someone took all of the printed journals on a subject and scanned it in for you to search and use.  Nowadays there are lot of databases that offer full-text so make sure that is selected when you are performing your search.  There are generalized databases like Academic OneFile and there are specialized databases like ATLASerials (American Theological Library Association).  Take a look but revert to the general ones if you start to feel overwhelmed.  Information is incredibly easy to come by in the digital age.

And (shameless plug) ask your friendly librarian for help searching the database.  They'll be thrilled to show you!  Check your school, university or public library!


Here is a cheat-sheet when taking a look at websites.


And here are some ways to decide if something is a reliable journal or a popular magazine.

*Here are four interesting articles about Wikipedia:
Huffington Post
The New Yorker
The Awl
MIT Technology Review

You are almost done!  Next is when you play your own game and fill in the blanks between your resource points in Step 6!

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