Chapter 6 Outline

Chapter 6: Doing the Research

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In order to be able to think critically, you must know where to get your information. Knowing where and how to research will enable you to make decisions in your personal, educational and professional life based on knowledge.

I. Research In Your Personal Life

Today’s consumer does not have to depend on what a company says about its product because of information provided by the Internet, consumer reviews, etc. A poll in 2008 found that only 17% of people enter a store without having done prior research when making a large purchase. The following strategies will help you make decisions based on your research.

Before researching a topic, break the topic into manageable pieces. Make a spreadsheet with headings such as different brands, prices and various stores.

Use a concentric circle method for conducting your research. Widen your research. Start with a website, then product reviews and possibly ask a person who has purchased the product.

Once you’ve narrowed down your favorite choices through carefully analyzing your information, check pricing. Make sure to check for rebates and sales throughout competing stores. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Everything on the Internet cannot be trusted.

a. Beyond Buying. Research skills will come more easily the more they are practiced. You might come to the point where you feel uncomfortable making a decision without conducting research. Websites are listed for the following topics:

i. Law related questions

ii. Medical professional questions

iii. Cost of living, crime rates and quality of living in various cities

iv. Best savings rate for your money or investment advice

II. Research In Your Educational Career

Your college career will largely be affected by your ability to research and use information. The campus library is a member of TexShare database which allows you to access a large variety of information and topics. A research assignment usually requires books and online resources. If you are unfamiliar with a library set-up, here is what you can usually expect to find.

a. Libraries are divided into fiction and nonfiction categories

b. Nonfiction books are organized by the Dewey Decimal Classification

c. Reference books cannot be checked out

d. The computerized catalog can find books by subject, title or author

Here are a few steps to help organize your research:

a. Start broad

b. Search for books on your topic

c. Look for newspaper, journal and magazine articles

d. Make use of the Internet to find information

e. Evaluate the information you find

f. Cite your source

a. Organizing Your Research. It is important to keep research organized through documentation. Use this simple system.

i. Number all of your sources sequentially

ii. Use note cards to take notes from each source

iii. On each note card, include page number of source

iv. On your outline, write the associated note card numbers

v. Place a checkmark on your note card when you use the information

If you would rather keep your notes on a laptop, you can use various programs—like Microsoft Excel or free Open Office Calc—to keep your information organized. Also, your librarian is trained in the research field. If you need help at any time, use your librarian as a resource.

III. Research In Your Professional Career

Research and study skills will be as important in your career as they are in college. It is important to stay connected to your professional field in order to have long-term success.

a. Professional Associations. Membership in a professional organization gives credibility, because it shows you stay up-to-date with new developments in your field and that you adhere to a code of ethics. It can also offer benefits like travel discounts or reduced insurance costs. Networking can lead to new job opportunities.

b. Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow. . . It is very possible to join an association while still a student and can increase your chances of finding a job. The following are reasons why it is beneficial to join a professional association in your field.

i. Meet people working in your field of interest

ii. Learn about job or internship openings

iii. Understand trends in the field

iv. Polish your communication and presentation skills

v. Prove your future career really matters to you

Joining a group is easy and inexpensive. Here are a few tips on how to find an association.

vi. Meet with a career counselor at your school

vii. Talk to your professors

viii. Contact someone who works in your field of interest

ix. Look in your “own back yard”—on campus

x. Use the web

c. Professional Journals. A good way to stay on top of changes in your field is to subscribe to a professional journal. They provide research materials, which, means you can easily find information specific to your field when necessary. This will make you a stronger employee.

d. Forums, RSS Feeds and List Servers. A great way to research changes in your field is to use the Internet.

i. Forums. A forum is a Web application for having discussions and posting user-generated content. A moderator will oversee the forum and topics and conduct are regulated. You are able to read messages, ask questions and post replies.

ii. RSS Feeds. Really Simple Syndication is a good way to keep up with news from your favorite Web sites. RSS Feeds publish updated content like blog entries, news content and headlines. The document will be a summary or the complete copy.

iii. List Servers. A list server manages e-mail newsletters for groups of users.

Making It Work For You

Take ownership of your career by continuing education, staying up-to-date and networking with other professionals. Find the ways to do this that best suits you.