Whenever you undertake a new task, like research for a paper, speech, or other project, it's a good idea to have a strategy. The following tips will help make your research experience more enjoyable and manageable:
- Start early. Beginning your work too late can cause a variety of problems. For one thing, resources can be unavailable (books are checked out; interlibrary loans take too long to arrive, etc.). For another, not giving yourself sufficient time works against the creativity you need to research your topic and write about it convincingly. (Stress and anxiety can cause your body to produce adrenaline, which blocks creative thought.)
- Be organized.
- Keep track of each search you do. Writing down your search terms (key words, subject terms, etc) along with the name of the database and any special limiters you use will allow you to duplicate the same search at any time.
- Keep records of all sources used. This will help you create your footnotes/in-text citations and bibliography as you work, which is certainly preferable to scrambling to put together your citations in the wee hours of the day that your paper is due.
- Take the time at the beginning of your project to learn about your subject (find background information). Investing time at the front end will save you time as you do research and write.
- Have a thesis statement or claim (a statement of what you want to prove in your paper or speech) early in your work. This will help you do research more efficiently, since you can accept or reject information based on a narrowed topic.
- Use appropriate resources. The Web is rarely a good place to start researching a topic. Begin instead with library resources (the library catalog and the research databases). Also, do not forget that books are an excellent source of information on most topics.
- Ask a reference librarian for help at any time during your research.
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