Research Skills

RE-search means to look at something in a new way, from a different perspective, shaped by your wisdom and insights. I created Dr. John's Eazy-Peazy Resource: Research Skills to outline research skills.

Overview

Why research?

  • RE-search looks at something in a new way, from a different perspective, shaped by your wisdom and insights
  • Research is useful in classes, your job, and career
  • Research contributes to scholarship and the world's collection of knowledge

Nature of research

  • Research is like a puzzle—it comes together over time
  • When you start you don't know if your questions are good ones
  • Discoveries are made only if you undertake the actual research
  • What you end up learning will be different than what you thought you started out to research
  • Research requires you to be flexible, ready to change plans, go in unexpected directions, able to adapt to new ideas and information (Veit, et.al Chapter 8, Beginning a Research Project)

Getting started

Ask questions about something you want to know more about. These questions become the focus of your research, the central idea, the thesis. You investigate these questions and then report about what you have learned.

Two types of research

  1. Primary Research
    You make your own discoveries through original research or experimentation
    Some written sources, especially those produced by those close to or actual participating in the topic you are researching, can be considered primary sources
  2. Secondary Research
    You learn what others have previously discovered or thought about a topic
    Method used is often library research, using texts

Your research topic

Frame your research topic in the form of questions or a hypotheses (theories about potential answers). Research questions may help direct and focus your research. Good research questions should be

  • Appealing --> you should have some personal interest in the research topic/question
  • Researchable --> you should be able to find sufficient information
  • Narrowable --> you should be able to narrow the focus of your research topic/question

Reading and research

Read to learn

Your skills in analysis, interpretation, and critique will help your research. Pay attention to the words you are reading. Interprete their meanings. Recognize the context, the situation that gives rise to those words, and hence, their importance to your research.

Understanding what you read

  • Look for clues in a text before you start reading (prereading strategies)
    • Title
    • Highlighted quotations
    • Author
    • Past experience
    • Section headings
    • Date of publication
    • Bold type, illustrations, and captions
  • Use clues provided by author
    • Signal/transition words—"and," "but," "for example," "therefore"
    • Topic sentences—the key sentence in a paragraph, the sentence that states the main idea of the paragraph
    • Signal phrases—"one of the most frequent causes . . ."
    • Repeated key words
  • Take notes while reading
    • Annotate and underline for later recall
    • Annotate to stimulate response
    • Write reading responses in a journal
  • Reread
    But reread only what you have marked and annotated as the important, or main ideas (Veit, et.al Chapter 2, Strategies for Reading)

Read for the main idea

Good readers always ask the question, "What is the main idea of this text?" Writers plant clues and signals in their writing, readers respond to them in predictably and relatively uniform ways to create meaning from their reading. In reading for the main idea, watch for

  • Arrangement of Ideas
    • Deductive ---> General to specific
      Writer states main idea in a general way, then demonstrates it with specific examples
    • Inductive ---> Specific to general
      Writer creates sequence of discovery with main idea coming as a conclusion reached after the specific evidence has been presented
  • Thesis Statement
    A one sentence statement of the main idea of a longer piece of writing
  • Topic Sentence
    A statement of the main idea of an individual paragraph
  • Implied Main Idea
    The main idea of either a longer piece of writing or a paragraph may not be clearly stated. It may be implied. The writer may leave it up to the reader to determine the main idea, think, and draw own conclusion. Main idea may have to be inferred from the context, or the signal words. By inferring meaning, readers become partners with the writer in making meaning. (Veit, et.al. Chapter 4, Reading for the Main Idea)

Consider these features of writing when reading

  • Purpose --> what the writer is attempting to accomplish
    Every piece of writing has a purpose. Purpose may be self-evident. Or, you may have to read between the lines to find the real purpose. You may have to use previous reading experience and background knowledge.
  • Audience --> who the writer is writing for, or to
    Every piece of writing is directed to an audience. Writers should adjust their writing to fit the needs and interests of their intended audience. Readers, when analyzing writing, should consider the audience the writing was intended for.
  • Main Idea --> what the writing is about (Thesis statement)
    Every piece of effective writing has a main idea. The thesis statement is a sentence that clearly defines what the writing is about. But, it may not always be clear, or at the beginning of a text. Analytical reading will help you find the thesis statement.
  • Development or Support for the Main Idea --> support from concrete evidence
    Every piece of effective writing provides development or support for the main idea. Writers should include details that explain, expand, and support their ideas. Sometimes facts or logic are called for, sometimes narration of events, and sometimes examples, illustrations, or reasons. The way a writer develops his/her idea depends on the writing's purpose and intended audience.
  • Organization and Coherence --> consideration for readers
    Every piece of effective writing is organized and coherent. Writers have a duty to organize their writing, to present their ideas clearly, to make their point early and stick to it, to provide a logical route through their writing for their readers, and to help readers see the connections between ideas, sentences, paragraphs. (Veit, et.al Chapter 7, Analytical Reading and Writing)

Wheel of research

This is a variation on Native American Medicine Wheels, a metaphor for the "stages" of research. Contemporary composition theory parallels include Linda Flower's stages of problem solving and Young, Becker & Pike's description of invention stages.

OVERVIEW, The East, The Eagle
The first stage is getting an overview of background material on the subject, standing back to take a good look. On the Medicine Wheel, the symbol for this is the East (the Eagle in the east represents clarity & illumination).

FOCUS, The South, The Coyote
The second stage is seeing how to put all the pieces together, symbolized by the coyote, the trickster. At the second stage of research, you, like the coyote, "play" with your data, run circles around it attempting to discover what to "do" with the material.

INTROSPECTION, The West, The Hibernating Bear
The third stage is the opposite of the eagle's sense of detachment. The West side of the Medicine Wheel is the place of introspection, represented by the hibernating bear...suggesting that, at this stage in research you think about where your research is going, what dreams and visions it creates for you and for your readers.

WISDOM, The North, The White Buffalo
The last stage is learning from what you have done. The white buffalo represents wisdom, collective knowledge, culture.

Research writing

Research begins with a question about something you want to learn more about. Writing is a way of reporting what you have learned. Your research question is the focus of your writing, the central idea, the thesis. The purpose of research writing is to present answers to questions. This can be done in two ways

  1. Research-based writing
    Largely information found through research
    Writers generally present relatively few of their own opinions or discoveries
  2. Research-supported writing
    Presents writer's own ideas supported and supplemented by research findings

Citing your research

Citations show what you have derived from your reference sources and exactly where you found your information. They give credit to the people whose ideas you are using. Citations generally appear in two places in your essay

  1. In the body of your writing (and so, are called "in-text citations")
  2. In a separate "Works Cited" page

There are many citation styles. Follow the one required by your class, program, schooi, or job.

Works cited

Veit, Richard, Christopher Gould, and John Clifford. Writing, Reading, and Research. New York: Macmillan, 1994.

Dr. John

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I created Dr. John's Eazy-Peazy Resources to support my teaching and creative endeavors. I hope you will find them valuable and welcome your input. My contact information is below. Thanks for visiting!

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