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HOW TO CONDUCT RESEARCH: INSTRUCTIONS I.

Plan and Gather

1. Choose a topic, or have one assigned to you. 2. Plan your research. Think about what you already know and what you need to know. Write down some keywords and questions you need answered.

3. Devise a project timeline to help you manage your time. The last thing you want to do is get behind before you even start. 4. Go to the library. This is the best place to find factual information and people who understand research.
5.

Check the library's card catalog or computer catalog for your key words. Find books, encyclopedias, journals and any other materials that pertain to your topic. You may need maps, atlases, magazines or other items-think outside of just books. Search the Internet for information as well but remember to document your sources accurately. II. Note, Outline and Report

6. 7.

1.

Begin to take notes. Use note cards or color-coding for larger projects to stay organized.

2. Photocopy pages with graphics you may need later, or pages with too much information to write down yourself. 3. 4. Note any answers to your starting questions and highlight according to importance. Keep a bibliography list, adding every source you use. Also add the source on each page of your notes so you can easily attach sources to quotes later.

5. Read through your information and organize any materials and note cards. 6. Write an outline of your facts and the order in which you want to present them. You may want to write the outline in your own words rather than quote your notes since most presentations require that you not just quote your facts but explain what they mean.

7. Report what you found in the medium required. This should be fairly easy if you took great notes, answered your questions and created a strong outline. How to Conduct Research Online Electronic resources abound, and they can be of very high quality. The best way to find peerreviewed, high-quality journal articles is to access them through your online library, or to purchase the articles through an article provider. However, there are excellent sources that are both accurate and of high quality on the Web, and they are often free and not password protected.

Whether you are looking for journal articles, monographs, factual information, or highquality publicly available resources, the same principles apply. Narrow your topic, make sure your search terms are relevant and focused, make sure your articles and your topic are in alignment, examine your sources for bias and distortion, and finally, make sure that your research provides sufficient support and background for your argument. Let's expand the steps and look at them again. It is useful to look at each of the stages individually and to think about how and why you will be engaged in activities. Define your topic: Narrow it down, but don't constrain it too much. Develop a solid thesis statement that gives you room to develop an argument. This is a great time to do brainstorming. Clusters, mind maps, concept maps, decision trees, and free-writing are all very effective. Determine what fields of study your research question will address: Identifying the fields of study will help you determine which journals and subject or fieldspecific databases to search Make a list of items that interest you about the topic: For example, you may be required to write an essay on an aspect of Hamlet in your English class. At first, you feel overwhelmed. Later, however, you think about the characters and situations that most interested you and you recall that Ophelia's speech and then her subsequent death were interesting to you. You wondered about the psychological state, and how she was perceived by the others in the play. Does her situation illustrate something essential about the human condition? You don't have any idea, but you'd like to explore it. So, you start by looking into what others have said about Ophelia in Hamlet. You find that her madness and death reflect and reinforce the overall themes of death, madness, murder, and betrayal. How does Ophelia's madness contrast with Hamlet's? You start jotting down ideas and key words. These will help you develop search terms and to focus your search by going to the correct types of journals and publications. Narrow your topic: This requires another round of brainstorming, but this time you will be focusing on what others have written. List terms, ideas, and concepts that occur to you, and then focus on the subcategories that you find most interesting. Then, use the list to narrow your topic. Avoid worn-out subjects and ones that are too narrow or too broad. What have others said? As you conduct preliminary research in the library, you will find books and articles on your topic. As you read the material, try to form an idea of what the major issues have been in the discussions about your topic.

For example, if your topic is on how stem cells could treat Lou Gehrig's Disease, you will need to have an idea of who the first people who started researching the topic. You will also need to identify the sides of the argument. Who is for it? Who is against it? Why? What are the issues? Once you have a sense of the main players, you can start to do searches based on author name as well as key words or topics. Ironically, in some cases, you may even have to be aware that the site may not have the original version of the information you're citing. They may, in actuality, be borrowing from another site. This is particularly the case with Web sites and services that subscribe to Weblogs or where the information is mirrored because they have chosen to pull the entire article in the feed. Evaluate your material: How do you determine if a source of information is of high quality? Even if you are obtaining your data from a library database such as Lexis-Nexis, you should be aware that the articles contained in the newspapers they have in their database could be biased. If it has advertising or links indicating that the owner is a member of an affiliate program on it, does such activity automatically make the site untrustworthy? In the past, it might have been an automatic disqualifier to see links to advertising, sponsors, or affiliate programs that pay the Website owner a few cents for referrals. However, one cannot make such assumptions now. In fact, the presence of affiliate links may indicate that the Website is a labor of love, and that there are no ideological or commercial ties. Further, the lack of commercial ties may actually be a negative factor because it may mean that the enterprise is so profitable, or the ideological motivations are so strong that there are numerous wellendowed backers, or a highly successful business model. Here are a few considerations as you evaluate your sources;
1. Refereed journals; This is an academic journal that requires all articles to be

reviewed by experts in the field. They require revisions and will reject articles if they do not meet standards. 2. Books and serial monographs; In this case, it depends on the publisher and whether or not they evaluate, judge, and critique the material to assure that only the most reliable are published.
3. Series sponsored by an association or reputable group; These are very common in

the humanities, particularly in the hosting of content in the public domain.


4. Wikis and collaborations; Variable quality. They can be extremely good and

reliable, but the quality, quantity, depth, and breadth will be variable, as will be the scope of the contributions. There can be bias, distortion, or gaps (lacunae) in information.
5. Weblogs and personal/corporate Web sites; some are absolutely brilliant. Others

are dismal. One can use the information, but it must be approached with care and extreme caution.

6. Term paper repositories; Needless to say, we have not mentioned termpapers.com

and other places that will sell you a term paper, or will allow you to share term papers with others. These are not the only unreliable sources of information in the Internet. It goes without saying that you should not use these, unless you're just determined to commit academic misconduct. You could cite them correctly, but they probably aren't the best source, unless your paper is about the traffic in term papers online.
7. Summaries, overviews, and study guides; I, like everyone else, love Pink Monkey.

However, I would think twice before actually citing it in a paper. I think that the best way to use Pink Monkey, Cliff Notes, Wikipedia, etc. is as a point of departure. Use them to gain an appreciation of your subject and to orient yourself. However, the information can be very imprecise and inaccurate, particularly in their plot summaries. They leave out details and discussion points that may be precisely the ones that you need.
8. Student postings, peer-to-peer downloads of notes, texts, etc; these are excellent if

you're interested in seeing how students write papers, and they can serve either as guides or as cautionary tales.
9. Parody Web sites; Believe it or not, some students have actually cited information

from parody sites as fact! The Onion.com comes to mind. This is a site that masquerades as a legitimate news site, but is, in fact, pure parody. How can you tell if a site is a parody, or so biased that the information it contains is unusable? Compare the information with others. Does it seem outlandish or extremely biased? Look at least three or four sites. Organize your sources, articles, and notes: After you have found your articles, be sure to organize them so that you have a sense of where they will go in your paper. Keep your primary thesis in mind, and the points you are trying to make and will support with evidence and research findings from your articles. This is a good time to return to your outline and to start mapping out where you plan to use your sources and citations. Create an annotated bibliography As you download and read your articles, you can keep track of them by creating an "electronic notebook" which would consist of a citation of your sources. Create an entry for each source. Use the appropriate style (MLA, APA, CBE, Chicago, etc.). After you have completed that, be sure to write a one-sentence overview/summary of the article and how it relates to your topic. If you're unsure how to cite references check out our guide on how to Avoid Plagiarism Update your outline: Re-examine your thesis. Look at your argumentation structure. Does each paragraph and subsection help support your thesis? How does your research fit? Determine where you have gaps, redundancies, or where your sources take you on a tangent.

Fill in the gaps: Make a list of the places in your paper where you need additional support for your argument. Then, after eliminating redundancies, map where you need to fill gaps, and where your argument needs additional support. CASE STUDY RESEARCH DESIGN The case study research design has evolved over the past few years as a useful tool for investigating trends and specific situations in many scientific disciplines. The case study has been especially used in social science, psychology, anthropology and ecology. This method of study is especially useful for trying to test theoretical models by using them in real world situations. For example, if an anthropologist were to live amongst a remote tribe, whilst their observations might produce no quantitative data, they are still useful to science. WHAT IS A CASE STUDY? Basically, a case study is an in depth study of a particular situation rather than a sweeping statistical survey. It is a method used to narrow down a very broad field of research into one easily researchable topic.

Whilst it will not answer a question completely, it will give some indications and allow further elaboration and hypothesis creation on a subject. The case study research design is also useful for testing whether scientific theories and models actually work in the real world. You may come out with a great computer model for describing how the ecosystem of a rock pool works but it is only by trying it out on a real life pool that you can see if it is a realistic simulation. For psychologists, anthropologists and social scientists they have been regarded as a valid method of research for many years. Scientists are sometimes guilty of becoming bogged

down in the general picture and it is sometimes important to understand specific cases and ensure a more holistic approach to research. H.M.: An example of a study using the case study research design THE ARGUMENT FOR AND AGAINST THE CASE STUDY RESEARCH DESIGN Some argue that because a case study is such a narrow field that its results cannot be extrapolated to fit an entire question and that they show only one narrow example. On the other hand, it is argued that a case study provides more realistic responses than a purely statistical survey. The truth probably lies between the two and it is probably best to try and synergize the two approaches. It is valid to conduct case studies but they should be tied in with more general statistical processes. For example, a statistical survey might show how much time people spend talking on mobile phones, but it is case studies of a narrow group that will determine why this is so. The other main thing to remember during case studies is their flexibility. Whilst a pure scientist is trying to prove or disprove a hypothesis, a case study might introduce new and unexpected results during its course, and lead to research taking new directions. The argument between case study and statistical method also appears to be one of scale. Whilst many physical scientists avoid case studies, for psychology, anthropology and ecology they are an essential tool. It is important to ensure that you realize that a case study cannot be generalized to fit a whole population or ecosystem. Finally, one peripheral point is that, when informing others of your results, case studies make more interesting topics than purely statistical surveys, something that has been realized by teachers and magazine editors for many years. The general public has little interest in pages of statistical calculations but some well placed case studies can have a strong impact. HOW TO DESIGN AND CONDUCT A CASE STUDY The advantage of the case study research design is that you can focus on specific and interesting cases. This may be an attempt to test a theory with a typical case or it can be a specific topic that is of interest. Research should be thorough and note taking should be meticulous and systematic. The first foundation of the case study is the subject and relevance. In a case study, you are deliberately trying to isolate a small study group, one individual case or one particular population. For example, statistical analysis may have shown that birthrates in African countries are increasing. A case study on one or two specific countries becomes a powerful and focused tool for determining the social and economic pressures driving this.

In the design of a case study, it is important to plan and design how you are going to address the study and make sure that all collected data is relevant. Unlike a scientific report, there is no strict set of rules so the most important part is making sure that the study is focused and concise; otherwise you will end up having to wade through a lot of irrelevant information. It is best if you make yourself a short list of 4 or 5 bullet points that you are going to try and address during the study. If you make sure that all research refers back to these then you will not be far wrong. With a case study, even more than a questionnaire or survey, it is important to be passive in your research. You are much more of an observer than an experimenter and you must remember that, even in a multi-subject case, each case must be treated individually and then cross case conclusions can be drawn. HOW TO ANALYZE THE RESULTS Analyzing results for a case study tends to be more opinion based than statistical methods. The usual idea is to try and collate your data into a manageable form and construct a narrative around it. Use examples in your narrative whilst keeping things concise and interesting. It is useful to show some numerical data but remember that you are only trying to judge trends and not analyze every last piece of data. Constantly refer back to your bullet points so that you do not lose focus. It is always a good idea to assume that a person reading your research may not possess a lot of knowledge of the subject so try to write accordingly. In addition, unlike a scientific study which deals with facts, a case study is based on opinion and is very much designed to provoke reasoned debate. There really is no right or wrong answer in a case study.

6 Ways to Conduct Accurate Research


Im always complaining about the lack of work put into a lot of web content. Thanks to lowpaying jobs and people who cant really write or conduct research applying for these gigs, were faced with an overwhelming amount of poorly written, factually incorrect web content. When I suggested people stop Googling and rehashing content for their research I was met with a flood of angry "can you make a better suggestion?" type emails. Why yes, yes I can. I realize if youre making a couple of dollars to write a piece of content, you cant be expected to put your all into it. Indeed I would just make up something off the top of my head for that price. But then, I wouldnt write for two bucks. If youre being paid accordingly for your efforts, it should stand to reason youre making some effort and that means taking the time to thoroughly research your topic. I realize its much easier to punch a few words into a search engine and rewrite what you find, but thats just adding to the problem. Try some of these suggestions for article research.

1. Visit the library. The library is a wonderful resource for research. Back in the day, long before the Internet, most writers, reporters and journalists would spend hours at the library poring over research materials. Nothings changed, the library is still a great place to find everything you need. 2. Books, magazines, and periodicals. All of these can be found, of course, at the library. You can also purchase back issues of newspapers and magazines and some newspapers will give you free access to their microfiche. 3. Public records Your county courthouse has property deeds, birth and death certificates, info regarding court cases and more. 4. People - If you really want to know about a specific topic, interview experts in the field. 5. The Internet I know. I already complained about the Internet. Still, if you take the time to weed through the crap, youll find some gems. The most reliable sites end in .edu, .gov and .org. This doesnt mean that because they end in .org or .edu theyre accurate. Use your best judgement. 6. The Government The Government is very helpful and will send you free literature for many subjects.

How do you conduct your research? If you use the Internet how do you know what youre reading isnt factually incorrect or just the same old rehashed content?