A researcher is defined by his curiosity, his organization and his meticulousness. If you are embarking on a research project, then the discovery, evaluation and methodical collection of data will improve the results of that research. Define, refine and outline the project until you collect enough evidence to write a compelling report.
Part 1 of 5: Define the scope of the project
Step 1. Find a good reason for this project
Clarify who will benefit. The answer may be based on your academic, personal, or professional needs, but it should serve as a motivation for you to do thorough work.
Step 2. Define the problem or question being addressed
You should summarize the question in basic terms, time periods and disciplines. Write down any subsidiary questions that need to be investigated in order to be able to answer the question.
Step 3. Think about your thesis
In general, the thesis is an answer to a general subject or to a question asked. You should have an idea of how you would like to use your research: however, you do not need to be fully aware of this before starting the project.
Step 4. Submit a plan of your research if your teacher, employer or group so requires
In general, a research plan is required for projects lasting more than a few weeks.
- End of semester essays, graduation projects, and field projects will require a research plan defining the problem you would like to solve through your investigation.
- Define the problem first, then explain why the problem is relevant and important to the people to whom you will return your research.
- Include the types of research you would like to conduct, including reading, surveys, collecting statistics, and working with specialists.
Step 5. Define your project field and settings
The following topics should be defined before you begin.
- The timeline of your research. You will need a timeline to complete all of the steps successfully.
- A list of topics that should be included in your final report. If you have an official program or mission, this should cover the field.
- The program of evaluations by professors or managers, to see the progress made along the way.
- The number of sources required. In general, the number of sources is proportional to the length of the essay.
- The format of your list of research, citations and bibliography.
Part 2 of 5: Get informed
Step 1. Start on the Internet, with basic search engines
Type in the basic terms of your research question, to get an overview of the topic.
- Prefer sites listed by universities, scientists, government research projects and journals.
- List the exceptional resources that you would be willing to cite.
- Use the plus sign to search for multiple terms used together. For example, "Christmas + gifts".
- Use the minus sign to exclude terms from the search. For example, "+ Christmas -Santa Claus".
- Collect site information, such as date posted, who posted and the date you were on the site, and the URL.
Step 2. Go to the library
If possible, use your university or school library. If you don't have a larger library nearby, apply for a library card at your local library.
- Speak to the section librarian to find out what collections, journals and dictionaries the library has access to. For example, the Center Pompidou library directory will give you access to all the books published on a subject.
- Do some in-depth reading, like history books, photography books, and look up definitions in a big dictionary.
- Use the computer catalog to access books obtainable from other libraries.
- Use the computer room to access journals and other materials available only at the library. For example, some scientific journals may only be available on library computers.
- Use the media room to see what other sources, such as microfiche, films and interviews are available in the library.
- Ask for the documents you think are important at the counter or using your online library account.
Step 3. Schedule interviews with people with personal experiences relevant to the topic of your research
Interviews and surveys can provide you with quotes, point you in a certain direction, and give you statistics that support your research. Interview experts, witnesses and professionals who have conducted research relating to your topic in the past.
Step 4. Organize observational research
Going on a field trip to gather relevant information can help establish the historical context of your research project. If you have permission to comment in your research report, you'll want to take note of how the research goes and moves away from your point of view.
Step 5. Refine your research when your project takes a certain direction
When deciding on your thesis, you should break it down into sub-sections that you can research online, in the library, or through interviews and observations. Remember that you will probably need at least 6 good sources for about 15 pages of the final report.
Part 3 of 5: Evaluate the Sources
Step 1. Ask if this is a primary or secondary source
Primary sources are evidence, ancient artifacts or documents from people who have had direct contact with the situation. Secondary sources are those that process information from primary sources.
A secondary source could be a point of view or analysis of an original document or historical event. For example, an immigration file would be a primary source, while a newspaper article regarding the descendants of a family would be a secondary source
Step 2. Prefer objective sources over subjective ones
If the narrator of a story is not personally related to the topic, it is more likely that he or she remains objective.
Step 3. Prefer printed sources
Web sources are generally distinguished by less stringent controls than articles published in journals or books.
Step 4. Look for different sources
Subjective sources with opposing views can be extremely important, as they can give you a broader view of the problem. Find the “hot spots” in your argument and look for all possible ways to deal with them.
It is easy to conduct research that supports your thesis. Try to find resources that contradict your thesis, so that you can deal with objections to your project
Step 5. Assess whether the source is relevant and / or imperfect before using the research in your project
Keep the sources separate, until you determine whether you want the source to be part of your research. While useful in the research process, some resources will not be of sufficient value to support published research.
Part 4 of 5: Recording the information
Step 1. Keep a notepad
Write down the questions asked by your research, followed by the sources and answers you found. Indicate as a reference the number of pages, URLs and sources that answer these questions.
Step 2. Annotate all the texts
Make photocopies of your paper sources and take notes on video and audio sources. In the margins, take notes about the terms that need to be defined, the relevance to the topic of your research, and the sources that are added one after the other.
- Use a highlighter and pencil on photocopies. You should do this when you read them, rather than having to come back to them later.
- Annotations encourage active reading.
- Keep a list of quotes that can be used in your report.
Step 3. Keep a file, so you can keep all of your research in one place
If possible, make files according to different topics. You can also use an electronic file system, like Evernote, to keep scans, websites, and notes together.
Step 4. Develop a plan as you go along
Separate the topics you need to break down by numbers. Then give letters to the subparts you need to research and report on.
Part 5 of 5: Overcoming Obstacles
Step 1. Do not use previous studies
Do not base your thesis on generalizations that have been made in previous studies. Try not to assume that a past approach is the only right approach.
Put your research aside for a few days, so you can look at it with fresh eyes. Take a break every week, just like you would with a job
Step 2. Talk to someone who doesn't know anything about your research
Try to explain what you have found. Ask the person to ask whatever questions come to mind as you talk about the topic, to get a new perspective on the topic.
Step 3. Try to find sources from different disciplines
If you've approached a topic from an anthropological perspective, try essays from sociology, biology, or some other field. Diversify your sources with the source section of your library.
Step 4. Start writing
Start filling out your plan. As you write you will decide which subparts need more research.