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A Guide to Research - Tutorial: Define

This learning guide offers research guidance that is applicable for an English 101 class.

Instructions for Using Research Learning Guides

This learning guide offers help on how to write a research paper for an English 101 class.  

It is divided into tabs that label parts of the research process: Define, Locate, Select, Organize, and Use. Start with Define.

Each tab contains a series of numbered lessons.

  • Read the lessons and watch the video clips.  
  • It is a good idea to take notes as you work through the lessons.
  • Your class will probably have a test on this material. 
  • Notice words in bold and pay particular attention when a concept is new to you.
  • Start with Define. When you have completed all lessons on this tab click on the big red arrow to go to the next step.
  • There is no time limit and you can re-visit the learning guide as often as you like.
  • Feel free to go back to earlier steps, since you will often go back to previous steps when you do actual research (see the video below, "Picking a Topic IS Research!")

Lesson 1: Understanding the Research Cycle

Thinking about academic research as a process in five steps is intended to make research practical and manageable. The steps of research -- Define, Locate, Select, Organize, and Use (ethically) -- offer a way to understand the interaction of finding information, analyzing and learning, and then creating new knowledge. Research tasks are often represented as a circular model because researching and writing are recursive processes. That is, research is not a one-way street. In completing a step it is important to review and revise adding new information (evidence) that supports argument and/or analysis.

Lesson 2: Making the Assignment Work for You

Details that may be included in the assignment can guide research and define the scope of a working thesis.

What to look for when reading your assignment:

 

Lesson 3: How Choosing a Topic and Finding Sources Works Together

From NCSU with no changes:

Lesson 4: Define = Brainstorming, Mapping, and Background Reading

In Gale Databases, such as Academic OneFile, click the Topic Finder link to get help finding words for searching the topic, finding search terms, and seeing keyword levels.

Lesson 5: How to Think About a Research Paper - Click > in upper right corner to read all six of the pratical tasks of research

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Lesson 6: Outlines; Formal or Informal, Three Ways to Organize

Why is it called a "sandwich" approach? To use a quotation, it’s a good idea to include a “quotation sandwich,” with the statement introducing it as the top slice of bread and the explanation following it as the bottom slice.

Freewriting is a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic. It produces raw, often unusable material, but helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism.

Freewrite --

  • What is my purpose?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What do I know already?
  • What do I want to know?
  • How do I feel about the material or subject?
  • How do I feel about this assignment (enthusiasm, boredom, blind panic, you name it)?
  • What are some words I can use to describe my subject? What are some essential concepts for my audience?

Collect or Formulate Questions*

  • Is preliminary research needed?
  • Would an encyclopedia, handbook, textbook, review article, or classic work in the field help?
  • How about talking with other people?

Collect Keywords, Subject Headings, and Terms from my questions.*

*Librarians can help with these steps.

Figure Out a General Search Strategy*

Choose Places to Search*

Construct Searches in Each Database*

Evaluate What I Find in the Search*

Select the Possibly Good Stuff; Throw out the Bad or Irrelevant Stuff

Save the Good Stuff Electronically for Future Reference

Find the Documents or Sources Themselves*

Read/Evaluate What I Read

Take Notes (Document My Sources*)/Grab My Own Ideas As They Occur

Freewrite

Generate New Questions (Possibly Changing Direction)

Collect New Keywords, Subject Headings, and Terms

Repeat the Cycle Until I Am Finished

*Librarians can help with these steps.

2. The Outline Approach

(A writer's outline doesn't have to look as formal as this:

  1.  
    1.  
    2.  

Jot down an outline or just notes, as detailed as you can make them, about what should be covered in your paper or project. (What do I know? What would I like to know? What does the reader need to know? How shall I organize the information I have?) This is a strategic way to use your time and minimize the "I'm three-quarters done and have lost my way" syndrome.

Proceed with research process, pausing every so often to flesh out parts of the outline with freewriting or to reevaluate my direction.

Collect or Formulate Questions (Preliminary research needed? Would an encyclopedia, handbook, textbook, review article, or classic work in the field help? How about talking with other people?)*

Collect Keywords, Subject Headings, and Terms from My Questions

*Librarians can help with these steps.

Figure Out a General Search Strategy*

Choose Places to Search*

Construct Searches in Each Database*

Evaluate What I Find in the Search*

Select the Possibly Good Stuff; Throw out the Bad or Irrelevant Stuff

Save the Good Stuff Electronically for Future Reference

Find the Documents or Sources Themselves*

Read/Evaluate What I Read

Take Notes (Document My Sources*)/Grab My Own Ideas As They Occur

Freewrite

Generate New Questions (Possibly Changing Direction)

Collect New Keywords, Subject Headings, and Terms

Keep Going until My Outline Has Grown into a Finished Piece of Writing.

3. The Mind Mapping Approach

The mind map is a freewheeling, visual approach that combines elements of outlining and freewriting. The advantage of a mind map is that it can start you working when an outline feels too restrictive or words for sentences or paragraphs simply will not come out. You can use expensive mind mapping software or a pencil and paper.

When you have gathered enough ideas, begin writing by translating your mind map into an outline, into freewriting, or into structured sentences and paragraphs.

Make My Mind Map (Show me an example.)

Collect or Formulate Questions (Preliminary research needed? Would an encyclopedia, handbook, textbook, review article, or classic work in the field help? How about talking with other people?)*

Collect Keywords, Subject Headings, and Terms from My Questions

*Librarians can help with these steps.

 

Figure Out a General Search Strategy*

Choose Places to Search*

Construct Searches in Each Database*

Evaluate What I Find in the Search*

Select the Possibly Good Stuff; Throw out the Bad or Irrelevant Stuff

Save the Good Stuff Electronically for Future Reference

Find the Documents or Sources Themselves*

Read/Evaluate What I Read

Take Notes (Document My Sources*)/Grab My Own Ideas As They Occur

Freewrite

Generate New Questions (Possibly Changing Direction)

Collect New Keywords, Subject Headings, and Terms

Continue with the Research Process Until I Have a Finished Piece of Writing

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