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This tutorial is part of the SMILE information literacy course at Samuel Merritt University. SMILE is modeled on the San Francisco State University Library's OASIS tutorial on Information Literacy. …

This tutorial is part of the SMILE information literacy course at Samuel Merritt University. SMILE is modeled on the San Francisco State University Library's OASIS tutorial on Information Literacy. The creators of OASIS generously gave permission for our university to use their materials as a starting point to develop a similar course; granting us the ability to augment, modify, rearrange, edit and reorganize the content as appropriate for our needs. The Information Literacy Task Force at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California, accepts full responsibility for the entirety of the SMILE tutorial but acknowledges the organization, content and images contributed by San Francisco State University.

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  • 1. Your Research Paper: Getting Started
    Defining the Topic and Determining the Information Requirements
  • 2. Learning Objectives
    At the end of this tutorial, you should be able to:
    identify the keywords or main concepts in your topic
     
    formulate and state a search question
     
    broaden or narrow the scope of your search
    determine the information requirements of a question, problem or issue
    recognize whether particular types of sources, formats or points of view are needed
  • 3. Stating Your Topic as a Question
    A good way to start your search is to state your topic as a question. This will help you clarify your thoughts and define your topic.
    For example, if your topic is stroke patients and rehabilitation, you could ask questions such as:
     
    When should strokepatientsreceive rehabilitation?
    What kind of rehabilitationhas been shown to be effective in stroke patients?
    Should we try to improve motor skillsor daily livingskillsin stroke patients?
  • 4. Identifying Concepts
    Once you have stated your topic as a question, you need to identify the main concepts, or keywords, in the question.
     
    Do this by picking out the significant terms in your question.
    stroke patientsrehabilitation
    motor skills daily living skills
    Once you have picked out the keywords in your questions, make a list of synonyms and related terms. This list may provide you with additional terms to use when searching for information. It may also suggest ways to narrow or broaden your topic.
  • 5. Narrowing Your Topic
    Finding too much information may mean that you need to narrow your topic. For example, daily living skills is more specific than rehabilitation and constraint induced movement therapy is more specific than daily living skills.
  • 6. Try rewording your question with more specific terms
    Instead of asking:
    “What types of rehabilitationare used for stroke patients?”
    You can ask:
    “Should we try to improve motor skills or daily living skillsin patients with stroke?” (a narrower question)
    or
    “What is the optimum frequency and duration of constraint induced movement therapy to improve self-care skills after a stroke?” (another narrower question)
  • 7. Broadening Your Topic
    If your topic is too narrow, try selecting terms that are more general. For example, hemorrhagic stroke is more general than middle cerebral artery hemorrhagic stroke, and stroke is more general than hemorrhagic stroke.
  • 8. Try rewording your question with broader terms
    Instead of asking:
    “What is the effect of middle cerebral artery hemorrhagic stroke on the Wernicke’s area of the brain?” (very narrow question)
    You can ask:
    “Can a hemorrhagic stroke affect speech?” (a broader question)
  • 9. What Type of Assignment Is It?
    Take some time to understand exactly what you are being asked to do. Below are some assignment examples:
  • 10. How Much Information Do You Need?
    Below are some things to think about when determining the information requirements of your assignment.
  • 11. Some assignments require that you use the most currentinformation:
    What does current research (last 3 years)
    say about local versus general anesthesia?
    While others require historical information
    or information over a period of time:
    Explain the origins of general anesthesia and how it has developed over time.
    Do You Need Current or Historical Information or Both?
  • 12. Do You Need Information From A Particular Type of Source?
    Be sure to check your assignment instructions to see what type(s) of information you need to find. Below are some of the possibilities.