Step-by-Step to Successful Research


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Presented by Susan Ujka Larson
Manager, Information Central
Fairfax County Public Library
12000 Government Center Parkway
Suite 324
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-0012

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Step-by-Step to Successful Research

  1. 1. Step-by-Step to Successful Research <ul><li>Define the End Product. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify Your Topic. </li></ul><ul><li>Test Your Topic. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider Your Research Type. </li></ul><ul><li>Gather Information. </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluate Your Resources. </li></ul><ul><li>Cite Your Sources. </li></ul><ul><li>Write an Outline. </li></ul><ul><li>Read and Take Notes. </li></ul><ul><li>Write a Draft. </li></ul><ul><li>Let it Simmer. </li></ul><ul><li>The Final Product. </li></ul><ul><li>Celebrate! </li></ul>
  2. 2. <ul><li>I need information about history. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Step One: Define the End Product <ul><li>Who is the research project for? </li></ul><ul><li>What form will the finished product take? </li></ul><ul><li>Report? </li></ul><ul><li>Persuasive Essay? </li></ul><ul><li>Personal Essay? </li></ul><ul><li>Term Paper? </li></ul><ul><li>Literature Review? </li></ul><ul><li>Research Paper? </li></ul><ul><li>Theses or Dissertation? </li></ul><ul><li>Speech? </li></ul><ul><li>Article? </li></ul><ul><li>Blog Post? </li></ul><ul><li>What guidelines or requirements must I work within? </li></ul><ul><li>Answering these questions will help give direction to your research. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Step Two: Identify Your Topic <ul><li>Discuss ideas with the instructor, boss, project manager. </li></ul><ul><li>Browse the index, table of contents, and article titles in resources specialized for your subject to narrow and focus your topic. </li></ul><ul><li>State you topic idea as a question. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify the main keywords or concepts in your topic. </li></ul>
  5. 5. For example . . . <ul><li>If your assignment is to explore (research) best practices and benchmark existing arts programs nationwide, and identify desired outcomes of the creative and performing arts program for Fairfax County. </li></ul><ul><li>How can this be stated as a question or questions? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the keywords or main concepts in your topic question? </li></ul>
  6. 7. Step Three: Test Your Topic <ul><li>Use the keywords in your topic question as search terms in library catalogs, online databases, and internet search engines. </li></ul><ul><li>Are you finding too much or too little information? </li></ul><ul><li>Adjust your research question and search terms as needed so that your topic is precise and scholarly information is available. </li></ul>
  7. 8. Step Four: Consider Your Research Type <ul><li>Historical Research – using resources that reconstruct an incident or review evidence. </li></ul><ul><li>Case Study Research – using resources that enable you to compare, contrast, and draw conclusions. </li></ul><ul><li>Developmental Research - </li></ul><ul><li>using resources to determine how something develops over time. </li></ul>
  8. 9. Step Five: Gather Information <ul><li>Library online catalog. </li></ul><ul><li>General reference sources. </li></ul><ul><li>Periodicals. </li></ul><ul><li>Databases. </li></ul><ul><li>The Internet. </li></ul><ul><li>Personal interviews. </li></ul>
  9. 10. Library Online Catalog <ul><li>Search by author. </li></ul><ul><li>Search by title. </li></ul><ul><li>Search by subject. </li></ul><ul><li>Search by keyword. </li></ul><ul><li>Advanced search options. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  10. 11. A Word About Boolean Operators <ul><li>Using AND, OR, and NOT (Boolean Operators) can help narrow or broaden a search. </li></ul><ul><li>AND narrows a search. (jazz and blues) </li></ul><ul><li>OR broadens a search. (jazz or blues) </li></ul><ul><li>NOT excludes, and is useful in keyword searching. (jazz not blues) </li></ul>
  11. 12. General Reference Sources <ul><li>Provide facts, definitions and general information to enhance you own theories. </li></ul><ul><li>Encyclopedias: general and specialized, including Encyclopedia of Sociology, Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Encyclopedia of World Art, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Dictionaries: general and specialized, including Black’s Law Dictionary, Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Statistical and Fact Books: including World Almanac and Book of Facts, Yearbook of Science & Technology, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Atlases and Gazetteers (geographical directory). </li></ul>
  12. 13. Periodicals <ul><li>Magazines and journals. </li></ul><ul><li>General interest magazines like Time, Newsweek, Business Week, usually do not cite sources. </li></ul><ul><li>Journals cater to a select audience and usually are written by scholars. Examples include Journal of the American Medical Association, Occupational Health, Public Productivity & Management Review, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Search for periodicals in abstracts (which summarize the information in an article) and indexes (which simply provide the article title). Abstracts and indexes are available in print and electronic formats. </li></ul>
  13. 14. Examples of Abstracts and Indexes <ul><li>Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature </li></ul><ul><li>Index to Legal Periodicals </li></ul><ul><li>Best source for abstracts and indexes is on the database selection page of your library’s web site. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  14. 15. Databases <ul><li>Provide extremely current and authoritative information. </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes provide full text formats which you may print out. </li></ul><ul><li>In many libraries, databases have replaced print reference resources. </li></ul><ul><li>Charge for use, so use your library card to access them for free via your library’s web site. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask a librarian for assistance with searching if you have difficulty finding information. </li></ul>
  15. 16. Librarian: The Original Search Engine
  16. 17. The Internet <ul><li>There are many different kinds of resources available on the Internet. </li></ul><ul><li>It is vital to verify the source material. </li></ul><ul><li>The most used search engines are Google and Yahoo/Bing. Your list of results is ranked by how closely they match your search terms. </li></ul><ul><li>See FCPL’s Search Tools guide for assistance </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  17. 18. Web Sites <ul><li>Web sites are located using their Uniform Resource Locator (URL). </li></ul><ul><li>Most libraries include lists of reputable web sites on their home page. For example: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Another way to locate useful web sites is to consider which organizations are connected with your topic, then search for their web page using their name in a search engine. </li></ul>
  18. 19. A Word About Wikipedia <ul><li>Wikipedia is not usually allowed as a resource in a research project. However, browsing the bibliography and background information can provide leads for additional resources. </li></ul>
  19. 20. Web 2.0 / Social Media <ul><li>Social media is relevant because it is being used worldwide not only personally but also professionally. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, these organizations have facebook and/or twitter accounts: Library of Congress, Foundation Center, Johns Hopkins University. </li></ul><ul><li>Set up RSS feeds or use Google Alerts to track information from Web 2.0 sources. </li></ul>
  20. 21. Personal Interviews <ul><li>Consider contacting colleagues in other agencies or locales for their expertise. For example, survey questions and results are not always posted on state or county web sites, but an email or phone call to a specific department may lead to the precise information you need. </li></ul>
  21. 22. Step Six: Evaluate Your Resources <ul><li>Is the publisher well-known and respected? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the author or editor have credentials, academic affiliations, or previously published works? </li></ul><ul><li>When was the source published or last updated? Is it timely? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the bibliographic sources cited? </li></ul><ul><li>If the source is a periodical or journal, is it included in an index or abstract? </li></ul><ul><li>Tips for evaluating sources: </li></ul>
  22. 23. Step Seven: Cite Your Sources <ul><li>Use the style guide that is appropriate to your work. </li></ul><ul><li>Humanities usually require the MLA style. </li></ul><ul><li>Social Sciences usually require the APA style. </li></ul><ul><li>History usually requires the Chicago style. </li></ul><ul><li>Sciences usually require the CSE style. </li></ul><ul><li>Guidelines are available at via the FCPL web site. </li></ul>
  23. 24. Cite Your Sources Continued <ul><li>Writing your bibliography before your report prepares you to work in the style appropriate to your topic, and actually saves time at the end by helping to eliminate confusion with source listings in the body of the product. </li></ul><ul><li>Style guides also are available in print format from your library. </li></ul>
  24. 25. Step Eight: Write an Outline <ul><li>Begin by making a list of the main questions you plan to answer and the facts you’ve discovered in your preliminary research. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider how you will organize your product. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chronological Order </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cause and Effect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Spatial Order (descriptive narration) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Order of Importance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Categorical Order </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Point-Counterpoint </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use headings and subheadings in your outline to guide you through the upcoming note-taking process. </li></ul>
  25. 26. Step Nine: Read & Take Notes <ul><li>Note cards? </li></ul><ul><li>Table? </li></ul><ul><li>Excel Spreadsheet? </li></ul><ul><li>Use the system that works for you. </li></ul><ul><li>Refer to print or online resources for guidance. </li></ul>
  26. 27. Step Ten: Write a Draft <ul><li>Good writing is precise and clear. </li></ul><ul><li>It may be helpful to refer to a style guide for the type of end product you are producing. </li></ul><ul><li>Read examples of well-done products to help in drafting your own. </li></ul>
  27. 28. Step Eleven: Let It Simmer <ul><li>Let the paper sit for a few hours or a few days. As you think about it, other ideas may come to mind. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask others to read the project and offer their suggestions. </li></ul>
  28. 29. Step Twelve: The Final Product <ul><li>Make sure that you have completely answered your topic question. </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that you have properly credited all your sources. </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure your ideas flow. </li></ul><ul><li>Print out a copy of your product and read it through silently and out loud. </li></ul><ul><li>Look at the document and make sure style is consistent and attractive. </li></ul><ul><li>Use the header and footer to identify and number all pages. </li></ul>
  29. 30. Step Thirteen: Celebrate!
  30. 31. Works Consulted <ul><li>Berry, Ralph. The Research Project: How to Write It . New York: Routledge,2004. Print. </li></ul><ul><li>Buffa, Liz. Research Paper Smart . New York: Random House, 1997. Print. </li></ul><ul><li>Engle, Michael. How to Find and Develop a Viable Research Topic. Cornell University Library. 04 April 2006. Web. 08 Aug. 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>< .> </li></ul><ul><li>Fairfax County Public Library. FCPL Web Site . 22 Sept. 2009. Web. 23 Sept. 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>< .> </li></ul>
  31. 32. Step-by-Step to Successful Research <ul><li>Presented by Susan Ujka Larson </li></ul><ul><li>Manager, Information Central </li></ul><ul><li>Fairfax County Public Library </li></ul><ul><li>12000 Government Center Parkway </li></ul><ul><li>Suite 324 </li></ul><ul><li>Fairfax, Virginia 22035-0012 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>September 23, 2009 </li></ul>