Unit 8

Research Project

 

In this course you have learned to use a web browser, web index subject-tree directories, and web index search engines to find useful information, a library computer system to find books and articles, and newsgroups to answer questions. Now it's time to put it all together into a research project.


What is Research?

Doing research means finding a number of different sources of information about a subject. Good research requires careful planning. It begins with examining other people's ideas, and bringing together information from different sources.

Five Types of Organization

Writers use five basic types of organization in research papers. Knowing them will help you to narrow your topic.

cause/effect (reason/result)

comparison/contrast

description

statement/response (question/answer, problem/solution)

chronological order

Your Research Goal

Your goal in this project is to gather a list of at least 10 resources (a bibliography) that you could use to write a research paper. Your bibliography should contain

1. Titles of books and articles from the library.

2. Names and URLs of sources on the Internet.

You may use the same topic and sources you have been researching during this course, but you should work to narrow your topic and add more sources to your list. You may also decide to choose an entirely new topic.

Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic and developing a search strategy are probably the most challenging aspects of the research process. Narrowing your topic and, as you have learned, choosing the key words are extremely important to the results of your search.

Steps in Choosing a Topic

First, spend a few minutes reviewing your previous searches. Is there anything that you would like to learn more about? Consider several possible topics. Here are some more examples of subject areas.

Broad Subject Areas

Hollywood

Biological Warfare

Marketing

Adolescence

Nuclear Energy

Computers

Aids

Drugs

Modern novels

Diet

Child Abuse

Feminism

Sports

Race Relations

Crime Prevention

Censorship

Traditional Medicine

Jazz

Agriculture

Chemical Engineering

Dance

Automobiles

Your country in the Twentieth Century

Rock Music

Genetics

Early childhood education

Soil science

Ecology

Oceanography

Second, organize your ideas about possible topics in the form of specific questions you will answer in your research.

Example

First, choose a broad subject area: Traditional Medicine

Second, narrow the topic by writing five types of questions: Cause/effect, comparison/contrast, description, response, and chronological order.

Example questions about Traditional Medicine:

Cause/effect or reason/result questions

Why is traditional medicine more popular today than ever? What conditions caused people to use traditional medicine? How does traditional medicine cure disease?

Comparison/contrast questions

What is the difference between traditional medicine and modern medicine? How are traditional medicine and modern medicine similar? What aspects of traditional medicine are also used in modern medicine?

Description questions

What is traditional medicine? What are the various treatments people have used? How do people make traditional medicines.

Response questions

(statement-response) People are turning to natural remedies in record numbers. What specific experiences have people had with traditional treatments that cause them to believe they are effective? (Problem-solution) Aids patients have developed immunities to the newest drugs. Could traditional treatments be the answer?

Chronological order questions

What is the history of the development of traditional medicine? How have treatments changed over the years?

Choose Your Questions

From the list of questions that you write, choose two or three that you could concentrate on. See if you can find information on them. Then focus on one question. Always be aware that you may need to change or refine your topic if your research uncovers a new and more interesting topic, or if you can't find enough information on the topic you have chosen.

Your Own Research Questions

Try it now with your own ideas.

1. Write some broad subject areas of interest to you here.

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2. Narrow a broad subject area to one or two possible topics for a research paper. Write them here.

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3. Write some possible questions for your own search below. Be very specific.

Cause/effect or reason/result questions








Comparison/contrast questions








Description questions








Response questions








Chronological order questions







4. Choose a couple of the questions that you would like to find out more about. Write them here.


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5. Review the Internet Minicourse Units 3 & 4: Indexes, Directories, and Search Engines.

Use the Yahoo! subject-tree directory to find some web sites that might answer your questions about your research topic. Write their names and URLs here.
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6. Review the Internet Minicourse Unit 5: Boolean Operators.

Develop a search strategy. Think of several key words you might use in your search. Write some phrases with Boolean operators and, or, and not to try during your search. Many students have found that near and adj are useful operators. Remember that quotation marks and + and - can be used on some search engines. Write your search phrases here.

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7. Try your key words on Alta Vista, IxQuick, and other search engines.

Try to find web sites with information on your research topic. Write their names and URLs here.

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8. Review the Internet Minicourse Unit 7: Using the Library on the Internet.

Return to the ISU home page and click on the library. Use your key words to find some books and articles on your research topic questions. Write their names and call numbers here.

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9. Narrow your search to one question and continue to collect information. Develop a bibliography of at least 10 library and Internet sources. Write them here.

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10. Review the Internet Minicourse Unit 6: Newsgroups.

Go to DejaNews and find one or more newsgroups related to your research topic where you could post a question about your research. Write the names of the newsgroups here.

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11. Review the Internet Minicourse Unit 4: Evaluating Web sites.

Evaluate your sources. Anyone can put information on the Internet. As a researcher, it is your responsibility to determine if your sources are trustworthy.


Write about your research project. What was easy about it? What were the difficulties you had? What suggestions would you make to other students who are just beginning to do research on the Internet?

Write in the space on the next page. Then send me your ideas. Click here.


Helen H. Schmidt
Instructor, Intensive English and Orientation Program
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, U.S.A.
Email:hschmidt@iastate.edu

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Last update: October 2000