Chapter 7 presents an overview of critical thinking in designing a legitimate inquiry: asking the right questions, focusing on essential sources, and evaluating and interpreting findings. Additionally, the chapter discusses secondary and primary sources and offers guidelines for finding and using them. This chapter (along with Chapters 8 and 9) can serve as the basis for the semester’s major writing assignment, either the formal analytical report discussed in Chapter 22 or the proposal discussed in Chapter 23. “The Purpose of Research” on Master Sheets 50 and 51 is especially important to lowerlevel students, who too often equate research with high-school papers about life on Mars or the Bermuda Triangle. Students need to understand that research is not just an aca - demic exercise, but that it is done for a purpose and the information uncovered will be put to practical use. Examples are provided in Master Sheets 52 and 53. For any research project, students should follow a well-defined schedule for completing the various tasks—as outlined in the exercise on page 150 of the textbook. If students work collaboratively to write a document, direct them to create a timeline that includes both individual and team deadlines. Planning helps avoid the last-minute all-nighter, and the poor writing that inevitably results. An early orientation to the electronic information services offered in your library will also help students avoid costly mistakes, both in the quality of their work and the time they must spend searching for information. Librarians are experts in how information is created, vetted, and made available online and in print; they can teach your students not only about how to find and evaluate information, but also how scholarly publication and the peer process review work. Arrange for a library session to teach your students how to use search tools such as the library catalog, article databases and indexes, and online and print reference resources to find books and journal articles. If your campus library is equipped with software such as Elluminate, a library session can be offered to your online class. Librarians are also available to meet with students for one-on-one or small group consultations. Software programs will never replace these information professionals, and forging a strong relationship with one of the librarians in your campus library will prove beneficial for both your students and you. Your students will already be familiar with the advantages of electronic searches. Ten or fifteen years of an index can be reviewed in minutes. Searches can be customized: for example, narrowed to specific dates or topics. They can also be broadened: a keyword search (textbook page 135) can uncover material that a hard copy search might overlook; Web pages can link to all sorts of material—much of which exists in no hard copy form. Take a few minutes of class time to ask students about the drawbacks of electronic sources, a topic they may not have considered before. These include the fact that databases rarely contain entries published before the mid-1960s and that material, especially on the Internet, can change or disappear overnight or be highly unreliable. Also, given the researcher’s potential for getting lost in cyberspace, a thorough electronic search calls for a preliminary conference with a trained librarian. To create a context for and to supplement the sample topics offered in the Collaborative Projects (or for those you assign or students themselves propose), you might ask students to assume that they have been hired by an organization to search for data that others will use to make a decision. (Perhaps an executive in a small chemical company wants to know how innovative companies are solving the problem of toxic-waste disposal.) You might mention that even the best trial lawyers (or their assistants) spend a good deal of time in the library or on the Internet doing homework before presenting data to the jury. Emphasize the importance of knowing where and how to find the information one needs when one needs it. Finally, students should be encouraged (or required) to compose questionnaires or plan interviews as part of their data bank for long reports. Your advice about the rough drafts of interview questions or sample questionnaires will be helpful. This is a good occasion to hold individual conferences.
Answers 1. Searching for information, recording your findings, documenting your sources, and writing the document. 2. Asking the right questions, exploring a balance of views, achieving adequate depth in your search, evaluating your findings, and interpreting your findings. 3. Surface level (publications from the popular media, designed for general readers), moderate level (trade, business, and technical publications, designed for moderately informed to specialized readers), deepest level (specialized literature, designed for practicing professionals). 4. Evaluating is deciding which sources are good to use in your research; interpreting is figuring out what the sources you choose mean. 5. Primary research means getting information directly from the source by conducting interviews and surveys and by observing people, events, or processes in action. Secondary research is information obtained second hand by reading what other researchers have compiled in books and articles in print or online.
Answers (continued) 6. Subject directories and search engines. 7. When using Google, make sure you narrow your search sufficiently; when using Wikipedia, use it only as a jumping-off point. 8. Any of the following: general, commercial, and academic Web sites; government Web sites; online news outlets and magazines; blogs; wikis; internet forums and electronic mailing lists; e-libraries; and periodical databases. 9. Your library’s online public access catalog (OPAC). 10. Unsolicited inquiries, informational interviews, surveys, and observations and experiments.