Have you ever had to do a research project for a class and had no idea where to start? No problem! This guide to conducting research more efficiently is for you.
Narrowing Down Your Topic
Depending on the topic of your research, the amount of information you can find can be overwhelming. Even a simple Google Search can bring up thousands of websites, and it would be impossible to go through all of them!
Instead, consider organizing your topic into specific subheadings. This allows you to get an idea of the things you want to mention in your project. For example, a project on Panda Bears could have subsections about their diet, where they live, threats to their population, and a section about pandas in popular media. Dividing your topic into subheadings also helps with picking out the information you need when you actually start doing the research. This way, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed! You can also narrow down your Google Searches to specific key words and phrases.
The Difference Between Reputable Sources and Non Reputable Sources
Using the internet allows for easy access to a sea of information. With so many websites out there, it can be tough to pick out the trustworthy ones.
Going back to our panda example, something like a Facebook page spouting things like “pandas live in the arctic”, isn’t a reputable source. Something like a journal article from a Nature publication is more trustworthy. Information from journals is peer reviewed by other scientists. This makes it less likely to contain errors and false information.
Websites can also be reputable sources, depending on the author and nature of the website. For example, government websites are examples of reputable websites. When examining websites, it is important to consider the author of the article. Articles with an author listed are more trustworthy because when the author puts their name beside their work, it shows that they stand by it. Another thing to consider is when the website or article was published or last updated. Older sources are less likely to contain up to date information, and of course, there may have been recent breakthroughs and findings that may be important for your research.
In short, when considering the reputability of websites, you should consider:
- The author (if the article has one)
- The website’s design (if it looks professional or amateur)
- The nature of the website (if it’s something like an established institution’s website vs a newer website)
- The date of when the article or website was published or last updated
Looking Out for Bias
Some websites can be more biased towards a certain viewpoint. For example, a company website is likely to only say good things about their product – because they want you to buy it! It’s important to watch out for bias, and consider both sides of the argument. Of course, not all company websites are like this, but it’s a good idea to consider using another source to backup the information that you’ve found.
Organizing Your Sources
After obtaining all your sources, it’s now time to organize them all. Save the links to all the websites you use. If you’re using books as a source, bookmark the page numbers and make note of the sections where you found your information.
You can organize your sources by creating a bookmarks folder on your web browser, or by copying and pasting the links into a word document. For research projects requiring the use of many journals articles, there are programs such as Mendeley and RefWorks that allow you to index the articles you find.
Giving Credit where Credit is Due (Proper Referencing!)
Consult with your project outlines and/or teacher on the type of citation style they would like you to use. Commonly used citation styles include MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association).
Using proper citations is important because you want to credit the authors of the information you found. It also shows that the information presented in your project comes from reputable sources, and that you didn’t just make it up.
Proper referencing means using in-text citations, along with including a reference page with a properly formatted list of all the sources you’ve used.
Writing your project!
Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to write your project! You’ve probably learned a lot about your topic in the process of doing your research, and now it’s time to put things in your own words and create your A+ project! Remember to use proper citations and avoid plagiarism. Good luck!
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