Beginning the Research Process
First Things First:
Academic research often requires several steps, and it may take some time to locate all of the information that you need. Make sure you leave yourself time to complete the assignment. Also, read your assignment carefully as soon as you receive it, and ask your instructor right away if anything is unclear to you.
Generate a Topic:
Choose a research topic that interests you. Once you have thought of a topic, try stating it in the form of a question. This will help to narrow your topic and focus upon the aspect of the topic that you are going to research. So if you first thought of writing about Media and Elections, try stating it in the form of a question: "How does the media influence presidential elections?"
Think Critically about Information:
As you can see from the timeline, if you are researching a recent event, it may not yet be written in a book.
Determine the type of information you need to investigate your topic fully. This may require a little thought about how information is produced and managed:
Find Background Information:
Reading an overview of your topic from a general source such as an encyclopedia provides background information, key words, and often a list of books and articles for further reading. This is the only step at which using Wikipedia is appropriate. Because anyone can alter information on Wikipedia, it is not considered reliable enough for academic research. Therefore, using Wikipedia for general information is appropriate, but it is not wise to rely upon this resource for a scholarly paper.
Find Research Materials:
Use the background information you located to determine key words or phrases that might be used to describe your topic:
In our topic, Media and Election are the most obvious key words, but there are other possibilities:
You can also use these keywords to search for books or magazine, journal and/or newspaper articles.
|Books are useful for an historical overview of a topic, or to identify the causes, effects or significance of a particular event. You can find books held by the University of Delaware Library by searching in the Library's catalog, DELCAT, using the key words you have identified. You can also search WorldCat Local to discover books on your topic that may be held at libraries around the world.
Journal articles often provide the most recent scholarly information on a topic and are usually more focused than books. You can discover articles on your topic by searching the Library's databases. The Library subscribes to many databases covering virtually all subjects, which are not available on the "free" Internet. To access the Library databases, visit the databases page.
Remember, the first item you find will not always contain the best or most relevant information. Be persistent and keep looking until you discover what you truly need. See "How to Evaluate Your Sources" for information about how to determine the quality of your resources.
Citing your Sources:
Everything you use for your research paper must be properly cited, whether it came from an e-mail conversation, book, article, or webpage. Therefore, it is important to maintain good notes to keep track of how you are using your resources. Since there are stiff academic penalties for plagiarism, even when it is unintentional, do everything you can to avoid it.