Research is one of the most important skills you need to be good at while at university. Without a good grasp of some of the basic aspects of research, a student would find it difficult to graduate whether at the undergraduate or postgraduate levels.
To create a comprehensive undergraduate project, assignments, term papers, and theses at the Master’s, doctoral level and post-doctoral levels, is not possible without knowledge of research.
Many students dread the thought of research because of the amount of work needed. But it doesn’t have to be so if one is organized and creative about it. And with the Internet, research is now comparatively easier.
This piece is a ‘simple-to-follow’ guide on how to go about doing research for all writing projects in school. Some of the steps are obvious while others are things you never thought about.
Hopefully, at the end, you won’t be scared of tackling any assignment because you now have a mastery of research.
1. Choosing a topic
Choosing a topic is the obvious first step. It is clear you need to know what you want to write about before you start researching the subject.
Generally, college lecturers would assign topics to students to work on. In some cases though, lecturers leave it to the students to create topics from a general or specific subject area.
Creating a topic for yourself should not be a daunting task. The important thing is to make sure the topic you created is related to the subject area.
There are several online resources like this one to help you create research topics. You can go ahead and create a bunch of them. Then collaborate with your supervisor to make sure you are on track.
2. Your Materials
This refers to the resources you would need in your research. These are sources of the data or information that would be part of your paper or project.
The following are all the places to get appropriate resources to conduct an effective research;
These days, there are two types of library, the physical library where you can walk into to look for books and journals; and the virtual library online which you can access from any part of the world as long as you have an Internet connection.
The good thing about a physical library is that you can always seek the help of a librarian to get you a book or material related to your subject.
These are places where articles, journals, reviews, and studies are stored electronically. You can search for whatever you need as most of them have very good search features.
Some online databases include:
- International Coalition on Newspapers
To get the best from databases, you must master the skill of using their search feature. Once mastered, you can get any information which you can download and read at any time.
To perfect your skill on how to search for items in databases or anywhere else on the Internet, this resource would be very helpful.
The Internet is a treasure trove of information for researchers if used properly. On the flip side though, you can be led down the wrong path with wrong information if you are not properly schooled on how to harvest information from the millions of websites on the Internet.
The key here is to select the proper search engine to work with. One of the most popular search engines for academic research is Google Scholar.
This page gives you a list some of the well-known search engines.
Again, to get the best out of search engines, use the skill you learned in the previous section. Don’t forget to click on hyperlinks in any article you read as they can give you additional information you might need.
3. Assess the worth of your sources
Evaluating or assessing the value of the information you got is the next step. The fact is, not all sources of information are credible. And among the credible ones, try to evaluate which ones are more important and relevant to your research.
You evaluate credibility by:
- Researching the author of the article to see if they are experts or well-known in that field
- Looking at cited sources or bibliography the author used to make sure they are also credible
- Make sure the websites you got the information is also credible. The rule of thumb is that websites ending with a .edu are sponsored by schools or academic institutions. Therefore, the information must be of high standard. On the other hand, .coms may be more interested in selling products to you. So you must know how the different kinds of domain names are related to credibility when doing academic research.
4. Balanced and verifiable information
Sometimes, some sources tend to be biased in what they present to you. This bias can be because the source is sponsored by some interest groups with a particular agenda, or the writer is trying to promote a particular ideology.
So it is important to make sure your sources present only balanced reports with all sides of the issue tackled. You can check for biases by making sure the information presented by the writer is also supported by other independent research.
5. Take notes, then write
After evaluating your sources and eliminating the less than credible ones, you might still be left with so much material to collate. That is where note taking comes in.
This involves reading the material and taking notes as you go along. Take your time and don’t rush it. This is the part that would determine how good your research is. So you don’t want to skip valuable information.
There is no single rule for note taking. What works for you might not work for somebody else.
With the notes as a guide, you can then go ahead to compile your research in your own words. It is important to use your own word as plagiarism is a very serious offense.
It is also important to pause from time to time to look at what you have written so far. This is to ensure that your presentation doesn’t veer away from the subject matter.
6. Citing your sources and bibliography
Citation and bibliography are also very important in giving your research the authenticity required.
While writing, if you use a direct quote, the source of the information must be cited. These can include using footnotes at the bottom of the page.
The sources of these quotes must also appear on the bibliography page. How the bibliography is written vary among institutions and sometimes, different lecturers might want it done in a specific way.
Some of the most popular ways the bibliography page are presented include
- CHICAGO and
7. Proofread your work
Any serious student knows that any written work would contain a lot of mistakes. And the only way to eliminate these errors is to go through the final work again.
So, take time to slowly read the entire work focusing particularly on places you could improve on. Make sure all sources are cited correctly and grammar errors corrected.
You can even hire a competent editor to help out with the grammar aspect if you have the money to pay. But a fellow student can help out with this part of the job.