Introduction to Conducting Research

Research for a school assignment is like doing research in everyday life.  We are all involved in research projects all the time.  What car should I buy?  What career should I train for?  What school should I go to?  What should I take for my headache?  Which treatment plan should I pursue for an illness?  Even though the questions pursued in academic research may not seem as practical, they are still the same.

A research paper also can be compared to our everyday life experiences.  After you do your research, you decide what car to buy.  You have found an answer to your research question.  If someone were to ask you  how you decided to buy a particular car, you might say, “Well, my dad said that blah, blah.  Then, I checked it out with our mechanic, and he said, “Blah, Blah.”  Then, I went to the bank for a loan, and the lady there said this has a good resale and they will lend me the money I need.”  You might find differing opinions.  You might something such as the following: “Our mechanic did not agree with my dad about blah, blah, but I think my dad is right because blah,blah.”  It’s important to report opposing views and explain why you decided not to accept them.  So, after considering all this information, you chose this car.  A research paper is the same thing.  It’s just more formal, and it has to follow a system for citing your sources such as MLA or APA.

The idea of research, anywhere, is to find out what you don’t know – not to find sources to support what you think you know.  You are supposed to approach research with an open mind.

Instructors will assign either a research question or a research topic or allow you to choose from a list.  If you have a question, your research immediately is focused research: research that focuses on finding an answer to the question.

If you start with a topic, your initial research is exploratory: research that explores the topic.  In this case, you have to determine your question in order to do focused research.  Then, you search for information on that question.

Proper research requires finding sources that help answer the question, not just any sources that have something to do with the topic.

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