Tips for Research Prep
BEFORE you set out on your research journey…
- Not sure were to begin? Try the Tools for Research Guide (organized by task)
- If your project requires scholarly sources, create a personal JSTOR account (see instructions in Dragons Research – Resources) and familiarize yourself with JSTOR’s My Workspace feature, valuable for long-term projects.
- When a database (like Gale in Context: World History) provides the option to link your GoogleDrive or OneDrive to the database, login with the one you use the most to make saving articles quick and easy.
- Start your APA, MLA, or CMS-formatted citation list in Noodle Tools and revalidate your Noodle Tools account.
- Consult additional reference sources beyond any teacher-provided background material as you explore potential topics; research is more of a spiral process than a linear one.
As you engage with sources, build a list or map of potential search words by paying attention to the language used to discuss the topic and to named people, events, places, court cases, treaties, legislation, etc. that arise in the conversation. Note any subject headings/terms assigned to a source too. Notice how language shifts when bias shifts.
Changing your search words can help you locate sources from contrasting perspectives. As you read, do so actively and with intention, striving to learn not only your topic’s history and key terms, but also aspects about your topic that will superpower your ability to find related resources and develop and refine a thesis, such as noticing…
- How information about the topic is organized
- Special vocabulary used by those who discuss the topic
- Differences of opinion, controversies, or unanswered questions related to the topic
- Individuals, groups, organizations, or agencies associated with the topic
Read scholarly journal articles strategically
Your time is precious and scholarly sources demand strategic reading. Unlike magazine or newspaper articles, scholarly journal articles often run ten to forty pages in length with dense, technical language. Before you invest time in reading a journal article in its entirety, quickly assess its relevance to your research question AND your own ability to understand the findings presented. To get a quick sense of what the article is about – and the level of technical expertise required to understand it, skim the abstract (if available), introduction, figures/table headings, and conclusions.