Chapter 2: Research is Messy

2.1 Starting your research

Getting a good grade in college often relies on finding and using the best and most authoritative information on a topic. To do this, you have to think critically, work through the resources you find, and construct your own ideas. In this course we focus on developing research skills, which include finding information appropriate to your needs, evaluating that information, and using it ethically. These skills take time, effort, and reflection to acquire.

What is research?

When you read the word research, you might think of the quick web searches we all do every day when we need basic information: a good recipe for Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, what are the top 100 movies of all time, what is Tourette syndrome, and so on. You might also think of writing a lengthy paper and the resources you’ll need to find and use within it.

Both of these processes are examples of seeking out information, but as you tackle more projects in college, your instructors will frequently use the word research to mean the process of finding and using authoritative resources. Thinking through the research process can help you be more efficient and effective, not only as it relates to coursework, but also when you’re researching for your personal needs. Research is an ongoing cycle of questions and answers, which can quickly become very complex. Here are some important areas to think about when starting your research:

  • Determining the scope of your research
  • Developing your topic and research question
  • Identifying key concepts for your topic


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