Research skills {What you need to get through it with your sanity}

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RESEARCH SKILLS
{WHAT YOU NEED TO GET THROUGH WITH YOUR SANITY}
Megan Lowe, Coordinator of Public Services
The Most Important Thing…
In order to conduct productive research, you need a
workable topic. NEVER start research without a
manageable topic.
A manageable topic will be neither too broad nor too
narrow. If your topic is too broad, you’ll find too much
information*. If your topic is too narrow, you may not
find enough information.
* I know what you’re thinking – “too much information? I need all I can GET!” Trust me, the first time you get
20,000+ hits (either in the Library’s resources or on the Internet), you’ll start sweating and realizing that the
world is VERY FULL of information, and not all of it is relevant to your needs. You don’t want everything; you
want what will serve your research needs.
Picking a Topic



Pick something that YOU find interesting – that way
you’re not bored in the research process
For writing papers at the college level, I’d
recommend avoiding topics that have been “done
to death” or are emotionally-charged – gun control,
abortion, and gay marriage/adoption are
examples of topics to avoid
Remember: most papers you write in college are
going to ask you to defend/argue from one side of
an issue
Developing a Manageable Topic


Let’s say you’re interested in doing a research
paper or report on marijuana – but that’s too
broad
You need to make it less broad. You can do that by
asking yourself questions about the topic:
 What
aspects of this topic interest me?
 What common misconceptions do people have about
this topic?
 What DON’T I understand about this topic that I’d like
to understand?
 What might others find confusing or interesting about
this topic that I’d like to highlight?
Developing a Manageable Topic
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“Marijuana” as a topic has a lot of potential – you
could approach it from a legal or law enforcement
perspective (the legalization of marijuana); a
cultural perspective (marijuana subculture); or a
pharmaceutical perspective (marijuana as medicine)
There is A LOT of research out there on marijuana –
by narrowing it to one of these perspectives, you’re
reducing the amount of stuff you have to go through
This makes the research process that much easier to
navigate and less overwhelming (which is what librarians do –
make research less scary)
Developing a Manageable Topic
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Another way to develop a manageable topic –
either instead of asking questions or in conjunction
with asking questions – is to use visual brainstorming
techniques such as concept maps or webs
These types of techniques can help you organize
your thoughts. You could also use a simpler
visualization technique
arrange
This web to
is from
the website:your thoughts.
Just
remember: brainstorming is the beginning and
http://www.education.com/study-help/article/brainstorming-graphic-organizers/
can help you refine or clarify your topic
Used to effectively treat
a variety of issues
Can be taken in a
variety of ways
Being plant-derived, it has
fewer negative side effects
Is still illegal in much
of the US, making
cultivation difficult
Marijuana should be
legalized for
pharmaceutical purposes
Got a Topic; What’s Next?
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
Now you have a topic – but the next step is NOT
diving right into the process of locating resources
You need to develop keywords which are the tools
you use to search the Library’s resources (and the
Internet, too)
Creating a list of keywords can help you further
refine your topic – it can serve as a brainstorming
technique, too!
The better your keywords, the better your results!
Developing Keywords
Medical marijuana should be legalized for the treatment of
Marijuana
should
be
legalized
medicinal
purposes.
Medical
marijuana
should
be legalized
for
purposes.
seizures,
pain
relief,
and
nausea
as a for
result
ofmedicinal
chemotherapy.

Marijuana

Law

Legalized

Treatment

Medicinal

Seizures

Purposes

Migraines/headaches

Cannabis

Glaucoma

Legalization

Pain relief

Medicine

Chemotherapy

Medical

Case study (case studies)

Medical marijuana

Doctors
Using Keywords

Keywords can be used in
›
›
›

The ULM Library Catalog
The ULM Library Databases
Even on the Internet!
You combine keywords together using certain words
called operators. They are:
›
›
›
AND (this is the most common operator)
OR
NOT
Using Keywords
So a keyword search for our topic could look like any
of these search strings:

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marijuana AND legalization AND medicine
marijuana AND medicinal AND legal
marijuana AND treatment AND law AND seizures
Order and capitalization are not important, but
spelling and number are, so be careful.
You have to use the word AND, not + or &.
Determining Resource Needs

This part depends on a variety of things:
Has your professor set a specific number of resources
to use?
› Has your professor said you can only use certain kinds
of resources?
› What kind of topic do you have? Is it more scientific or
more pop culture?
›

The answers to these questions will guide you toward
the kinds of resources you need to consult.
Determining Resource Needs
There are different kinds of resources:
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Books
Individual chapters/essays in books
Articles
 Newspaper
articles
 Magazine articles
 Journal articles


Government documents
Websites and web documents
Evaluating Resources
Resources generally fall into two categories:
Scholarly



Written by experts
Focuses on a particular field, topic,
or discipline
Intended
for others
in that field or
JOURNALS
are scholarly.
career
Popular




Written by journalists
Usually covers broad topics, fields,
issues, or disciplines
Usually
appeals and
to a MAGAZINES
wide audience
NEWSPAPERS
are popular.
Everyday language,
slang, even
profanity
“Proper” language, technical
vocabulary

LOTS of ads

No ads

NOT RESEARCH ORIENTED

RESEARCH ORIENTED

Evaluating Resources: Internet Edition
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Authority--who created the web page? Are they experts? What are their
credentials? Do they provide contact information?
Accuracy--where did they get their information? Are the facts verifiable
through another source? Do they list a bibliography of citations from where
they obtained their information?
More about evaluating Internet resources (including this
Coverage--how much of the topic does the resource cover? Does it attempt
list)all
can
to cover
or be
mostfound
of theat:
aspects, or is it vague?
Currency--when
was the site last updated? Are the facts on the site up-tohttp://www.ulm.edu/library/faqfiles/webevaluate.htm
date? Is the information current?
Objectivity--does the site have biases? Is the information presented in such
a way to allow the viewer to make his/her own judgment, or does the site
try to persuade you to adopt its viewpoint? What is the purpose of the
site?
Getting It Together (Tips + Reminders)
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Everybody thinks research is hard; it really isn’t. It just takes
time.
Make sure you keep a list of keywords – you’ll find as you go
along that some words work better than others. If you keep a
list, you can make a note of what’s working and what’s not.
One step at a time: don’t try to find everything all at once.
Pick one type of resource or one aspect of your research (like
marijuana and migraines) and pursue that first.
Getting It Together
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Don’t assume you’ll be able to find everything right away
– sometimes it takes a little digging to find the right
resources. It’s better to have the right resource than the
first item on a results list
Digital folders – in your email, on your jump/flash drive,
or your desk top – can keep resources organized and
easily accessible; some of our databases will allow you
to create individual accounts in which you can save
searches and documents!
If you find a website that’s useful, copy and paste the URL
into a Word document and annotate it – that way you
know what it is and can get back to it more easily!
Getting It Together
And most importantly, remember: if you need help…
…JUST ASK A LIBRARIAN FOR HELP!
That’s what we’re here for – we want to help YOU! All
you have to do is ASK.
Q & A TIME!
Thanks for your attendance!
Remember, if you need research help, all you have
to do is ask the librarians. You can…
Visit the Reference Desk, Library 1st floor
 Email us at reference@ulm.edu
 Call us at (318) 342-1071


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