Learning how to research is part of being a college student. Most college programs will include some type of research curriculum, depending on your area of expertise. As your research skills improve, your knowledge expands proportionally. To develop better research skills and help yourself improve in school, you need to respect some important rules. Here are five of the most important steps to remember when researching in college.
Step 1. Map out a plan
You must schedule your research hours and set aside serious time for this commitment. The first thing you should do is set aside important goals that you need to achieve by a specific date (e.g., find 10 sources in one week). You need to plan ahead and stay organized if you want your paper to be nicely written and completed on time. Know what your steps are.
• Decide on the topic you’d like to discuss. Brainstorm ideas until you find something that you truly enjoy researching and that speaks to you.
• Find the keywords and narrow your topic down to more specific parameters.
• Find a question for your research. What are you testing and how are you formulating your hypotheses? What issue will your research address?
• Develop from the main research question. Have sub-questions and answer them in order.
• Determine your sources and make sure that your arguments are supported by demonstrated claims.
• It’s time to create your bibliography and gather your sources. Put them all together and fill in the gaps of your research paper with important data.
Step 2. Browse through bibliographies
Once you found a good research paper that you’d like to include in your study, check its bibliography and read every article that sounds interesting to you or might be related to your topic. Most academic writers will not get super creative with their titles, so you’ll get a gist of what the paper is about from the very first start. You could check out the online research paper helper to find other relevant resources and make sure your paper stands out. Once you’ve got many titles to work on, it’s time to start reading. Take notes as you go and ensure that you’re taking in the information presented.
Step 3. Develop your research question
Now that you read enough articles and papers, you are prepared to formulate your research question. What do you want answered? Start searching for different ways to ask questions. You could start by asking open-ended questions such as, “how” or “why.” Also think about the ‘so what’ of your paper. Why is this topic important to you and to the reader? How can it help you add to the already existing body of research in the field?
After brainstorming questions, you should narrow your list down to two or three basic ones. Then evaluate them and think about the most important aspects that you’ll explore when answering. Evaluate your question type. Is it clear enough? How about focused, is it focused enough? Is it complex and does it include key terms?
Next is coming up with a hypothesis (or multiple). Are you making an argument in your paper? If so, what will you say in that argument? How will you support it? Why does your argument matter, why is it important to research in general? How might other people challenge your arguments and what kind of sources do you need to support your thesis?
Step 4. Use a system that works for you
After you planned out your paper, it’s time to organize all of your data, including your notes. You could use a notebook and lay everything down. Putting all information together shouldn’t take you more than a day or two. You could also use Excel to enter the data into the system and have a more organized outlook.
Step 5. Ask for help
Most professors will be more than happy to help you out with your work. If you’ve got questions or simply want some things clarified, ask for help from your professor. Librarians might also be able to help you. If you’re not sure how to organize your paper or might simply want a second opinion, you could always get writing help online.
Other Important Tips to Remember
• Don’t use Wikipedia.
• Take things step by step, do not rush; start ahead of time.
• Know how to pick your resources.
• Take notes everywhere you go.
• Don’t dwell on old research.
Map out a plan, browse through various bibliographies, develop your research questions and hypotheses, and make sure you’re using a system that works for you. Last but not least, ask for help if you need it.
Michael Turner is a marketing specialist and content creator. He helps students get their assignments done on time and works alongside small businesses. In his free time, Michael travels.
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