WR 227 Stewart: Research Strategy

Research guide for Linda Stewart's WR 227 class Spring 2018

Selecting a Research Topic

Your research topic will be based on sustainability and the requirements of the Eco Social Justice Grant at PCC. Use those requirements and a sustainability framework to brainstorm topics for research.

Keyword Searching

A four minute video that will help you create a precise search that gets you just the results you want.

Google Searching with Site Suffixes

Google's advanced search can help you limit your search to the areas of the web where the information is most reliable. 

Every web address has a suffix that represents the type of information source published to the Web. For example, ".com" indicates a commercial enterprise, ".edu" an educational organization, and so on. If you add site:edu or site:gov to your regular Google search, you can limit your search results to information from those sources.

Google search box with keywords "global warming" and a suffix limiter "site:.gov"

 

Below are the most common suffixes.

.com

Commercial enterprises, form small businesses to large, use this suffix. That includes news organizations. What kind of information you get from a .com depends on the kind of business it is, what they are selling. News organizations sell ad space based on readership numbers, so their information will be up-to-date and dynamic. Other online businesses will link their information directly to what they are selling, so it is good to be especially skeptical on these sites.

.edu

This is the suffix for higher education sites. Colleges and universities use their websites to promote research and the scholarship of their faculty, the achievements of students, and host web pages curated by instructors to share information relevant to their classes. You can even find dissertations and peer-reviewed articles at these sites, although it will be more hit-or-miss than a database search.

.org

Non-profit organizations use this suffix. That includes charities, think tanks, lobbyist groups, activist groups, and free information services like Wikipedia, the Pew Research Center and the Mayo Clinic. Washington lobbyists and think tanks will provide a lot of research and analysis on topics they have a vested interest in, which can be useful yet biased. 

.gov

US government agencies provide a lot of information to taxpayers: the US Census, statistics on labor and employment, environmental regulations and issues, studies on health and medicine, and legislation debated or passed through Congress — and a whole lot more.

Learn more about Advanced Google Searching from LifeHack: 20 Tips To Use Google Search Efficiently.

What Kind of Sources Do You Need?

On the next page, Find Sources, you will find many different ways to find a wide variety of information sources. Before you dive in, consider what kind of sources you will need for your research.

Questions to consider:

  • Will they be scholarly (academic) articles published through the peer-review process?
  • Or will the information you need more likely be found in government documents, popular periodicals like newspapers or magazines, or trade journals?

Below are guides to help you choose the sources you need.

Evaluating Sources

Most of the information you will use for the research project will come from non-scholarly sources, so you will need to more closely evaluate the sources you find, especially on the World Wide Web.

Below are guides that help you ask important questions about the information you find. (Note: these can be helpful even if most of your sources are scholarly. Always keep your critical thinking hat on!)