1. Identify what makes information about a topic useful to you.
2. Defining your topic in some context that makes sense to you.
3. Finding additional quality information and research that you can use for your paper.
Regardless of where you are getting your information, you need to be aware of a few simple attributes about whatever information you are using.
When evaluating information, here are five helpful considerations:
Currency: timeliness of the information.
Relevance: importance of the information for your need.
Authority: source of the information.
Accuracy: reliability, truthfulness, correctness.
Purpose: reason that the information exists.
Having a firm sense of what your topic is and what you want to do with it are important for focusing your inquiry.
It's OK to start without any real notions of exactly what you want to do; but the general abundance of information and commentary available on most topics will force you to focus your inquiry into the form of a single question or desired outcome to make the entire process manageable.
In three steps:
There are "general" academic research tools that focus on the "better/best" publications across a number of disciplines and subject areas; and then there are "discipline" or "subject" focused research tools that strive to be as encompassing of all publications, reports, etc. that are available in a given field like Education or Sports Management.
Just about every major area of study has a particular research tool(s) that you'll become familiar with as your academic career progresses and you focus on a particular area/program of study.
Writing an effective research paper starts with knowing what type of paper you are writing.
The goal of a research paper is not to inform the reader what others have to say about a topic, but to draw on what others have to say about a topic and engage the sources in order to thoughtfully offer a unique perspective on the issue at hand. This is accomplished through two major types of research papers.
The argumentative research paper consists of an introduction in which the writer clearly introduces the topic and informs his audience exactly which stance he intends to take; this stance is often identified as the thesis statement. An important goal of the argumentative research paper is persuasion, which means the topic chosen should be debatable or controversial.
The analytical research paper often begins with the student asking a question (a.k.a. a research question) on which he has taken no stance. Such a paper is often an exercise in exploration and evaluation.
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