Monday, October 2nd, 2023

Research 101

I. Understand Your Assignment & Planning Your Paper

  1. What are the length requirements for the assignment?
  2. How many sources are you required to cite?
  3. Is currency of information important?
  4. What formats (books, journal, Internet sources, etc.) are you required/allowed to use/cite?
  5. When is the assignment due?

II. Sites with Topic Ideas

  1. Facts, news, and thousands of diverse opinions on controversial issues in a pro-con format.
  2. US News & World Report: Debate Club: Pro/Con arguments on current issues.
  3. 401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing, New York Times: Great questions to consider for argumentative essays.
  4. Room For Debate, New York Times: This website explores close to 1,500 news events and timely issues. Knowledgeable outside contributors provide subject background and readers may contribute their own views.
  5. Writing Prompts, New York Times: New York Times opinion articles are geared toward students and allow comments.

III. Develop Your Topic & Research Question/Thesis

  1. Choosing an interesting research topic is important because it is what drives the research. Mind maps can help you choose and develop an interesting research topic.
    1. Make a list of appropriate topics (nouns) that interest you:
      1. Mars
      2. Cloning
      3. Fracking
    2. Then, add verbs:
      1. Colonizing Mars
      2. Cloning may cause health problems
      3. Fracking causes pollution
  2. Research your topic (a.k.a. a thesis statement), as a question:
    1. Is Mars hospitable for humans?
    2. Will cloning cause health problems in humans?
    3. How does fracking cause pollution?

  3. Broaden/Narrow Topic: Students often choose topics that are too broad (climate change) or too narrow (organic rice labeling in SW Arkansas). It is important to select a topic that can be addressed in the time frame and is appropriate for the length of the assignment.
    1. If your topic is too broad you will:
      1. find it difficult to combine all the information you find about the topic.
      2. not be able to cover the topic in the assigned number of pages or words.
    2. If your topic is too narrow you will:
      1. find little or nothing written about it.
      2. be able to fully write about it in far fewer than the
        required pages (or words).
    3. This EBSCOHost video explains how to narrow or broaden your topic, so you can find enough research materials to write intelligently about you topic and aren’t overwhelmed by an unmanageably large topic.

IV. Get Background Information after you choose your topic and develop your research question. Background sources can provide: a chronology or timeline for your topic, information about dates and events that are contemporaneous with your topic, scholarly opinions on your topic, keywords and subject-specific vocabulary for database searching, current thought on your topic, and other resources. Some good sources for background information are:

  1. Credo Reference
    is a general reference solution that allows users to conduct thoroughly detailed searches in a range of multifaceted ways. Its full-text, aggregated content covers every major subject from the world’s best publishers of reference.
  2. Gale eBooks provides access to encyclopedias and reference sources within the Gale eBooks platform. Title List
  3. eBook Academic Collection contains a growing collection of over 160,000 multidisciplinary eBook titles from a wide variety of subject areas, including Art, History, Mathematics, Psychology, Philosophy, and Business.
  4. eBook Collection contains a large selection of multidisciplinary eBook titles representing a broad range of academic subject matter, and is a strong complement for any academic collection. The breadth of information available through this package ensures that users will have access to information relevant to their research needs.
  5. eBook Central Collection provides access to authoritative eBooks from the world’s top publishers on a range of subjects: arts, business management, education, general knowledge, health & medicine, history & political science, law, literature & language, religion & philosophy, science & technology, and social science.

V. Create a Search Strategy can be challenging if you don’t know very much about your topic, yet. Here are some steps that can help you find search terms and develop a search strategy:

  1. Tutorial: Creating an effective search strategy by University of Minnesota Libraries
  2. Create a Search Strategy worksheet
  3. Identify and list main concepts and keywords related to your topic.
  4. List synonyms and related terms (both narrower and broader) for your main concept terms and keywords.
  5. Combine search terms with AND and OR in different ways. The most effective terms or search in one database may not be as effective in another database.
  6. Create different ways to phrase your search question.

VI. Find Sources

  1. Use UAHT Library’s databases to find journal articles and other information that is available in fulltext online.
    1. How to Search the Databases
    2. How to Use eBooks on EBSCOhost
  2. Use the library catalog to find books, eBooks, DVDs and other items in UAHT Library’s collection.
  3. Items that are not available in the Library’s collection or are accessible in full text online can be ordered through the Library’s Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service.
        Book Request            Article Request

VII. Types of Sources

  1. Primary sources reflect the viewpoint of a participant or observer of an event or phenomenon. They are records of events as they are initially described without interpretation or commentary. They can be disorganized and offer an opportunity to draw conclusions independently. Primary sources can also be sets of data which have been tabulated but not interpreted. Some examples of primary sources are: diaries, speeches, interviews, research data, etc.
  2. Secondary sources provide analysis and interpretation of an historical event or phenomenon. These sources are removed from the original event and often make information more accessible by repackaging it in a more accessible or understandable form. Secondary sources are the subsequent interpretations or studies that are based on primary sources. Secondary sources include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, reference materials or any item that interprets or reviews research (a primary) work.
  3. Scholarly sources (also referred to as academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed sources) are written by experts in a particular field and keep others interested in that field up to date on the most recent research, findings, and news. These resources provide the most substantial information for research papers.
  4. Peer-reviewed sources undergo the review and scrutiny of a review board of colleagues in the author’s field. They evaluate this source as part of the body of research for a particular discipline and make recommendations regarding its publication in a journal, revisions prior to publication, or, in some cases, reject its publication.

VIII. Quick Search Tips

  1. Phrases: Enclose phrases in ” ” to find the words together.
    1. “Colonizing Mars”
    2. “Roe v. Wade”
    3. “cancel culture”
    4. “free college”
  2. Truncation & Wildcards:
  3. Truncation

    • Retrieves ending variations of root words.
    • Truncation symbol: asterisk *
    • Truncation symbols can vary by database or search engine. Check the “help” link (usually along the top of the screen) to see which symbol works for each one.
    • The symbol stands in the place of any number of characters to the right.
    • Examples:
      • environ* = environment, environments, environmental
      • crim* = crime, crimes, criminal, criminals, criminologist
      • laugh* = laugh, laughs, laughing, laughter


    • Substitutes the wildcard symbol for one letter in a word.
    • This is useful for words that have the same meaning but are spelled differently.
    • Wildcard Symbols:
      • question mark ?
      • hash tag #
    • Examples:
      • wom?n
      • col?r
      • hum?r

    Important: Symbols can vary by database or search engine. Check the “help” link (usually along the top of the screen) to see which symbol works for each one.

  4. EBSCOhost Wildcard Help,
  5. EBSCOhost searching with wildcards,
  6. ProQuest Platform Search Tips: Truncation, Wildcard, and Hyphen Characters.
  7. Use limits Most databases will allow you to place limits on searches and results:
    1. publication date,
    2. format or type of publication: (article, book, eBook, theses etc),
    3. peer-reviewed,
    4. journal or magazine title,
    5. author,
    6. primary or secondary sources.
  8. Types of databases: Search general databases (i.e., Academic Search Elite and ProQuest Central), as well as databases that are solely about your area of research (i.e., CINAHL Complete for nursing/health professions or History Study Center for history).
  9. Search multiple databases. In EbscoHost and ProQuest you can search multiple databases simultaneously.
    1. In EbscoHost:
      1. Click on the “Choose databases” link above the search box.
      2. Select the databases you want to search.
      3. Click on the OK button at the top/bottom of the screen.
    2. In ProQuest,
      1. Click on the 3 small, white, horizontal lines towards the left upper corner of the screen and then click on “Change databases” in the drop down menu.
      2. Select the databases you want to search.
      3. Click on the Use selected databases button at the top/bottom of the screen.

IX. Source Evaluation:    Source Evaluation Checklist    Quick Source Evaluation Checklist

  1. Individual sources:
    1. Authority: What is the source of the information? Who wrote it? What are the author’s creditials and organizational affiliations? who published or sponsored it?
    2. Currency: When was it published or posted? Has it been revised or updated?
    3. Accuracy: Is the factual information verifiable by other legitimate sources? Is the information supported by evidence? Can the information or evidence in one source be supported by another source? Is the statistical evidence credible?
    4. Coverage: Is the information in complete, partial, and in context? If it is out of context, is there a path to find its source? Is the information’s copyright current? If not, is an update available?
    5. Relevance:Is the information closely related to your topic? Who is the intended target for the information? What does the information add to your research?
    6. Purpose/Objectivity: Was the iformation written to inform or persuade? Is the information factual or is it someone’s else’s interpretation of the facts or information? Is it opinion or propaganda? Is the material objective and free of religious political, cultural, ideological, institutional or other biases? Is it influenced by biases?
    7. Scholarly: Is it original research? Is the author affiliated with a university or other institution? Is it peer-reviewed?
  2. Sources as a whole group:
    1. Diversity: Do you cite from a variety of source types, such as books, scholarly journals, reliable Internet sites (if allowed by your instructor)? Do you cite primary or secondary sources?
    2. Quantity: Do you have enough resources to support your thesis or argument? Do you cite varying points of view and types of material?
    3. Quality: Consider the following when you assess the quality and validity of your sources:
      1. Tone and purpose of the publication.
      2. Does the author make assumptions?
      3. Can/does the author support conclusions?
      4. Do your sources document their work by citing other reliable sources?

X. Plagiarism is using someone else’s words as your own without crediting the original writer for those words. As a careful and credible researcher, you want to give full credit to sources both in parenthetical citations and bibliographic entries.

  1. Some examples of plagiarism:
    1. Taking a phrase from a book without placing it in quotations.
    2. Copying information from any sources including the Internet and classmates.
    3. Using work that you have already received credit for in another course.
    4. Failure to properly use parenthetical citations, footnotes and other citation methods
  2. Some common forms of accidental plagiarism:
    1. Paraphrases with no citation: A paraphrase is supposed to contain all of the author’s information and none of your own commentary; a paraphrase with no citation is an example of plagiarism. Even if you have avoided using the author’s words, sentences structure, or style, an unattributed paraphrase is plagiarism because it presents the same information in the same order.
    2. Misplaced citations: If you use a paraphrase or direct quotation, it is important to place the reference at the very end of all the material cited. Any quoted, paraphrased, or summarized material that comes after the reference is plagiarized: it looks like it is supposed to be your own idea. This is one reason why accurate note-taking is so important; it is possible to forget which words are yours and which are the original writers.
    3. Multiple citations from the same source are cited individually. It is not adequate to give one citation at the end of the paragraph for a bunch of individual points abstracted from a source. Parenthetical citations are intended to make citing your sources easy to do; don’t be shy about using them.
  3. Some tips for avoiding accidental plagiarism when you use sources:
    1. Cite every piece of information that is not the result of your own research, or common knowledge. This includes opinions, arguments, and speculations as well as facts, details, figures, and statistics.
    2. Use quotation marks every time you use the author’s words. (For longer quotes, indenting the whole quotation has the same effect as quotation marks.)
    3. At the beginning of the first sentence in which you quote, paraphrase, or summarize, make it clear that what comes next is someone else’s idea. (According to Smith…; Jones says…; In his 1987 study, Robinson proved…)
    4. At the end of the last sentence containing quoted, paraphrased, or summarized material, insert a parenthetical citation to show where the material came from.

XI. Citing Sources provides information about the sources used in research and writing. It allows readers to trace ideas back to their original sources and gives credit to the original author. Citation acknowledges any source that has directly influenced your language, ideas, or arguments. You should cite what you quote and what you paraphrase. If you don’t cite, you may be guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism is a form of theft. Avoid plagiarism with proper citation practices.

  1. Citation Styles
    1. MLA
    2. APA
    3. Chicago
    4. AMA
  2. Citation Generators
    1. Bibme
    2. EasyBib
    3. Citation Generator
    4. Citation Machine
    5. Add citations to a Word document
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