The Top 10 Tips for Effective Research
So...you've got a big project ahead of you. Here are ten tips to help you get the most out of your research!
1. Identify and Document Your Research Topic or Problem
Think about your argument, identify main concepts for your research, and write everything down. What you record will be helpful to develop your search strategy.
2. Conduct Background Research
3. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Allow enough time to get the materials you need. Anticipate that there may be problems in retrieving the information. You might have to get books through interlibrary loan, a journal may missing in the stacks, or a Library database may be down the weekend you need it.
4. Determine The Types of Information You Will Need
The type of information you need effects what tools you use to locate your sources. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What format of material (books, journals, newspapers, manuscripts, etc?) will most likely contain the information you need?
- How important is "time" in your research? Do you need "up-to-the-minute" information or are you looking for materials that cover a specific time period?
- How important is place in your research? Are you looking for materials covering a specific geographic area or are published in a certain place?
- What languages do you need material in? Is reading documents in their original language important for your topic. Can you read languages other than English?
Each of these questions can be helpful in deciding what tool to use to locate the sources you need.
5. Select Your Tools Carefully
Once you determine the types of information you need, you will need to Identify the tools to use to locate the resources for your topic. Some tools are better than others to find specific information. Talk to a librarian to locate the best resources, or use the Library's subject pages to learn about what tools the library has available for your topic.
6. Plan Your Search Strategy
Plan how you will use the tools you have. When using printed materials, look at the introduction in the front to find out how to use it. Check indexes in the back of the book to check for specific subjects or names. When using electronic resources, write down keywords and determine when you can use Boolean searches. Check out the "help" sections of databases to find more information about using the tool effectively.
7. Document Your Search Thoroughly
Make sure to write down what resources (electronic or print) you have used and where they are located. If it is an electronic source, write down your different searches. You won't duplicate work you have already done and you never know when you might return to the resource.
8. Evaluate Your Results
Is the information relevant to your topic? Is it from an authoritative source? Did you retrieve enough information, not enough, or too much? Revise your search strategy if necessary, and repeat the process of searching and/or select another tool to use.
9. Cite Your Research
Remember to record the publication details from your sources so that you will be able to appropriately cite them in footnotes and bibliographies. You may also want to write down the location (call number, library, etc.) in case you need to retrace your steps.
10. If You're Confused, Ask for Help!
If you are having difficulty with any of these, ask for help! Talk to your information professionals: your librarians. Make an appointment with your faculty advisor. Talk to your course assistant or preceptor. We are all here to help you with this important topic!