Research Tips and Techniques

A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

At the beginning of all experimental work stands the choice of the appropriate technique of investigation. ~ Walter Rudolf Hess

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~James Michener

In the upcoming second edition of Taking Charge, we have a chapter on research that defines methods and modes of research in different spheres of your life—such as personal, educational, and professional.

Educational research is a very important skill. Co-author Karen Mitchell Smith writes in Chapter 6, “Your level of success in college will be greatly affected by your ability to research and use information well.” Yet, proper research skills are elusive to numerous students today.

For many students, research is a dreaded process. For some, it is a life-long profession. And still, for others, it is simply a needed task. No matter what category you fit into, the quotes above hit on the three main aspects of research: reading, investigating, and writing.

Reading may seem like an obvious part of research, yet knowing WHAT to read is a little more difficult. Research does not only involve books. It also includes periodicals, maps, and microfilm. Finding these resources requires some assistance, which is where helpful sites like The National Archives come in. This website gives you ways to search and read a variety of materials through links to research tools and topics.

Investigation is also an important part of research. You can investigate by reading books in your library or searching the web. Searching the Internet is often the most popular way to investigate a topic. It’s easy to type a phrase into Google and click “search,” but finding trustworthy sites and authoritative opinions can be tricky. Also, many times your instructor won’t allow certain cites to be used as resources (such as Wikipedia).

It’s best to filter your research through a good (re)search engine. ITools provides links to research tools that are trustworthy such as encyclopedias and biographies. Jstor is also a good site to trustworthy academic journals, studies, and articles.

After you have read and investigated, you must be able to write down what you have researched. Combining that information in a correct way is important way. When it comes to writing academic papers, there are many different formats, such as MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and Chicago. If you are curious on the forms and their differences, a good resource is Purdue University’s writing website.

Also, having general knowledge on how to organize and cite information for a research paper is vital to your academic career. Plagiarism can cause you to fail a class, so knowing when and how to cite sources can make or break your grade. For information on plagiarism and citations according to MLA guidelines, visit A Guide for
Writing Research Papers