A student often enters the academic research process because their professor gives them an assignment. Usually this assignment requires the student to choose a topic related to the course content or a course of study. This initial step can seem overwhelming. However, it does not have to be!
When choosing a topic, here are 3 things to think about:
Topics can come to you through a variety of sources such as class discussions, personal conversations on current events, or even news stories that you come across. You can explore topics that you may be interested in writing about by doing some background research.
Background research will help you gather basic facts about your topic and learn common jargon used by experts who discuss it. Find out more about background research through this video:
Research is a process of inquiry so it starts with a question that you want to know the answer to. The answer to this question, based on a hypothesis derived from an analysis of your sources, becomes your thesis. So, how does one go about developing a good research question?
As you conduct your background research on a topic of interest, you may begin to formulate questions about certain aspects of your topic. For instance, for the topic global warming and Antarctic penguins, you could begin to think about the following four research questions:
WHY might global warming reduce Antarctic penguin populations?
HOW could global warming change Antarctic penguins' habitats?
|SHOULD efforts to preserve Antarctic penguins habitats be prioritized?
|COULD changes to international law regarding global warming improve the outcome for Antarctic penguins?
Any good research question always:
For more information on this step of the research process, watch the following video:
So you have a research question, now how do you go about finding answers? You first want to start with right resource to locate the right sources.
For academic research, one of the best resources available to you is LSU Libraries. Library resources are reviewed by librarians to ensure the quality of the sources in terms of relevance, credibility, trustworthiness, and reliability. Although using library resources may take some getting used to, things like discovery, the library's catalog, and databases are embedded with tools to help make your searches for information more effective and efficient such as filters and citation tools. Librarians are also readily available to assist you with your research. Finally, you are paying for library services through your tuition.
Other common resources:
In order to find and effectively use information, you need to first understand how it is produced. This is where the information timeline comes in - it shows the progression of information about an event or topic. Understanding this timeline will help you better evaluate what sources you should turn to in order to find the best information.
Day Of: Social Media, Internet, TV
Week Of: Newspapers
Week After: Popular Magazines
Months After: Scholarly Journals
A Year After: Books
Years After: Reference Books
The type of resources you choose very much depend on the type of sources that you need. The type and amount of sources that you need is often determined by your assignment outline and by your topic. Students often wonder how many sources are enough. The answer is always that you want to have enough sources of different types to help support your thesis. What types of sources are there?
Primary & Secondary Sources
A primary source is original information that has not been interpreted or evaluated by anyone else. It is an important source type to include in your research because it provides raw materials for you to analyze and use to support your thesis. Examples: diaries, letters, pictures, maps, literary texts, autobiographies, statistical data, etc.
A secondary source interprets, critiques, or or analyzes a primary source. This is also an important source type because this can provide authoritative information to help support your arguments within your research papers. Examples: book reviews, monographs, biographies, articles by scholars or journalists, etc.
A tertiary source, or reference work, provides objective information and basic facts. Generally, you will have already consulted this source type when you did your background research by looking at encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, etc.
Scholarly vs. Popular
|Written by scholarly experts
|Written by anyone (journalists, scholarly experts, professionals, and everyday people)
|Written for a scholarly audience
|Written for a general audience, or an audience of non-professionals who are enthusiastic about a subject
|Peer-reviewed or Refereed
|No peer-review process
|Images convey information
|Images can just be there to look good
|Follow formatting conventions relevant to scholarly disciplines
|No formatting conventions
|Present the findings of scholarly research and experiments conducted by the authors of the article
|May share information about scholarly research conducted by someone other than the author
|Include lots of citations, formatted correctly
|Include few or no citations without any formatting standards
We live in a time in which we are constantly bombarded with information and anything that we wish to know is readily available at our fingertips. These news facets of modern life mean that our life skills now have to include the ability to sift through the information that not only meets our needs but also is credible, reliable, and trustworthy.
This ability can be gained through the academic research process as you evaluates the sources that you have located.You can ensure that your sources are credible, reliable, and trustworthy using the CRAAP Test, a common evaluation tool for web and library resources.
What does CRAAP stand for?
The timeliness of the information. Depending on your topic, how recently a source was published may be a very important factor as to whether or not it is the right source for you. Ask yourself:
The importance of the information for your needs. Try to determine how useful the source is for answering your research question. Ask yourself:
The source of the information. Determine if the author of the content can be trusted to provide accurate information. Ask Yourself:
The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content. There should be proof that the information is backed up by credible sources or data. Ask yourself:
The reason the information exists. Determine what the author's intent is. Ask Yourself:
If you do not appropriately cite your sources, then you are committing plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined as the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own by the Oxford English Dictionary. One accused of plagiarism can face major consequences in an academic environment that can include failing an assignment or class and academic suspension.
Examples of Plagiarism:
How can you prevent plagiarism? By ALWAYS citing your sources! You always need to cite your source if you use:
There are 3 important reasons to cite your sources:
How to cite your sources: