Tips for Effective Research

Peer reviewed papers are the most credible sources of information students will find to support their own research. Most school libraries will have peer reviewed articles on a range of subjects. That said in the past five years schools have recognized the legitimacy and permanence of the internet and it, along with books, journal and magazine articles and film media are all accepted research sources. Don’t forget to record detailed source information as you go, this will be very important when it comes time to cite your sources, especially jot down page numbers so if you need to go back you can without re-reading large volumes.

Begin your search of your sources with a clear question in mind. Focus on that particular question as you look for supporting data and answers and try not to stray from the original idea too much, at least not at the start. As your argument develops there may be interesting aspects that you had not previously considered and that you now want to include and that is fine but concentrate on the primary argument first. Then, begin to develop ideas for further research and counter arguments you may need to refute.

An important point when using the internet for research is to make sure the site author is credible and does not have an interest in presenting a biased point of view, i.e. product sales. Also, check the site creation date and update dates. Some can be over 10 years old and so is the data provided therein. On the up-side the internet is particularly great for sourcing graphs, charts and image data to support your argument quickly and easily.

When you begin to write your paper, don’t worry about flow, spelling or grammar. These can be corrected later and it is much easier to create a growing idea and steady flow if you are not stopping to worry about these details. Just begin typing and let your mind jot down everything it can think of regarding the subject, the content, arguments, counter arguments and anything else.

Write it all down first and then go back through it to determine what will work and how the content will be best structured. Then begin to develop ideas from that information, then research further. It isn’t until you are nearing the end of this writing phase that you need to worry about correcting spelling, grammar and syntax.

A final note on research is don’t forget to back up data as you go. There is nothing worse than making headway on a project or cranking out a few thousand words and then experiencing a virus, a crash or a power outage and all your hard work is gone - so save as you go. Make it a habit to click the disc icon every 15 minutes, or after every page. It is also a good idea to have backup. Today storage devices are small and cheap and worth their weight in gold when your system fails. The size and type options are varied but there will be backup solutions to meet your specific hardware requirements and your budget.

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