WR 121 for McDaniel HS: Step One: Get ready

This guide is to support the research of McDaniel High School's dual credit WR 121 students.

Getting started on your research adventure

Research involves learning, and being willing and able to change your mind.

  • You begin with a question, and "I wonder..." As you read and explore, notice what interests you and pursue it. There will be some dead ends and also some intriguing new ways forward.

On a practical note:

  • Keep track of everything you find that seems interesting or useful:
    • You could use a Google Doc, or Word, or one long email, or pad and pen, or tons of browser tabs. It just needs to work for you.
      • Copy links, MLA formatted citations if possible, and write yourself a note.

Who cares about your topic? Look for where they may have spoken/written about it. 

  • Start with Google (or another search engine). Check out 20 Google Search Tips if you want to get better results.

Look for a variety of perspectives on your topic.

  • Words matter! A keyword search for right to life bring up results with a different perspective than a keyword search for right to choose.
  • Adding site:org to your keyword search in Google will bring up .org websites. Then change site:org to site:gov or site:edu to get different perspectives.

Step 1: Learn about the context around your inquiry question

First, get to know more about the broader topic surrounding your inquiry question, the context(s) in which your question is situated.

Background sources like encyclopedias, news articles, and summary reports are good for finding out who is talking about your topic (psychologists? educators?) and an overview of what they think is important.

1. Search Encyclopedias for Background Research, the "Topic Search" in Academic Onefile or look for a news article in US Major Dailies or search Credo Reference to find at least one article that you are interested in reading.

2. As you read the titles or first sentence of articles you find, look for new terms that describe your topic and make note of them as potential search terms. Look for aspects of your question that you might not have thought of yet.

To get ideas about facets of your question, take a look at the "topic finder" on the right in Academic OneFile or the visual explorer tool in Credo Reference.

Policy & research institutes

Policy and research institutes conduct and publish credible research, often including polls, and advocacy on social, political, cultural or economic issues. While most policy and research institutes are non-profit organizations, some have a political or ideological slant.

Introduction to the Library Website and Library Services

This 5:26 video provides an overview of the library website and highlights some of the Library's most popular collections and services. 

Get to know more about your topic - search one or more of the databases below

Academic OneFile -- Topic Search

In Academic OneFile, look for the option to use a "Topic Finder" on the right-hand side of a results list. It's a great option for visually browsing aspects of an issue and viewing articles that address sub-topics.

Topic finder example wheel

Turning an Interest into a Research Question

In this video, you’ll learn how to turn something you find interesting into a researchable question for a college research project.

Advanced Google Searching

Google's advanced search lets you limit your search to more reliable resources, like education sites or government sites. To do this, add site:edu or site:gov to your regular Google search.

For example: 

  • If you do an ordinary Google search for nutritional supplements, most of your top results will be commercial (.com) sites trying to sell you vitamins.
  • If you search for nutritional supplements site:gov , the top results (except for the sponsored ads) will be sites such as the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, which are authoritative, unbiased sources that are not trying to sell you anything.
  • If you search for nutritional supplements site:edu, your top results will be from universities providing research on nutritional supplements.

Learn more Google Search tips from "6 Google Tricks That Will Turn You Into an Internet Detective" in the New York Times.