Now that you have a focused research question, it is time to find and record information so you can support your answer with strong evidence. In the RESEARCH section of this guide, you will learn to create a search strategy, evaluate sources, and take good notes. As you work, keep your research question and any assignment requirements in mind so that you stay focused.
Many students begin this stage feeling optimistic but become confused and frustrated as they are overwhelmed by finding too much information or disappointed by finding too little. You may need to go back to PRE-SEARCH to refine your topic, making it more narrow or broad. This is a great time to ask your teacher or Mrs. Kane for help.
CREATING A SEARCH STRATEGY
Your search strategy is your plan for finding sources to use in answering your research question. Think about what kinds of information you will need. Will you need primary sources such as political cartoons, diary entries, or photographs? Will you conduct original data collection such as interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments? Once you know what you need, you can make a list of the possible sources for that information.
Your information may come from the following types of sources:
Although you may be in the habit of going straight to Google for information, beginning with the library's resources can save you time and effort in the end. Internet search engines often provide thousands of results and figuring out which are relevant and trustworthy can be a much bigger task.
A robust search strategy will include some combination of the following:
You will use keywords to search for information whether in databases, online catalogs, internet search engines, and even books (use the index at the back).
Try this brainstorming process to develop a list of potential keywords:
List keywords that are important to each of the concepts in your research question. If you aren't sure what your keywords should be, write out your research question or a few sentences about your topic and circle the important words. For example:
What are the effects of television on teenagers? > television, teenagers
Next brainstorm SYNONYMS and RELATED CONCEPTS:
teenagers > adolescents, young adults, children, students
Brainstorm NARROWER search terms:
television > television commercials, advertising, product placement
Brainstorm BROADER terms:
television > media, entertainment
Combine keywords to get articles that match each of your important concepts. For example:
television AND childhood obesity
Mix and match these terms in your database and catalog searches to see which are most effective.
Advanced search strategies will allow you to achieve more accurate and precise results. Try these:
"muscular dystrophy" or "Of Mice and Men"
THE CRAAP TEST FOR SOURCES
(For a more simplified evaluation, you can try the C.A.P. test)
Source: The CRAAP Test is adapted from Meriam Library at California State University, Chico.
You will also want to take notes on your OWN thoughts and ideas as you read, for later use. Labels these too so you know not to attribute them to a source.