WR 121 Chelf: Welcome
In This Guide
This guide is designed to help students who are doing a project or assignment that involves writing and research.
Use the tabs to navigate through the other pages of the guide:
- Find Articles - Recommended databases for finding published articles and other published writing.
- Find Statistics and Websites - Starting points for U.S. government and global resources.
- Peer Review - Peer review explained.
- Evaluate Sources - How to determine whether the sources you've found really meet your needs.
- Research Exercises - Research exercises to support this class.
- Cite Sources - Help with MLA citations and manuscript formatting.
- Get Help - Get help from a librarian 24x7, get support from a tutor, or find a handout or tutorial to help you with your research.
Find Books, Articles, DVDs, and more
Research: 3 Step Process
Research is generally an iterative process. That is, we have to make several passes at it before things start to fall into place. All the same, it can sometimes be helpful to imagine it as a linear process. Here's one approach to that.
Step One: Get Ready!
First, get to know your topic.
In order to explore what others have written and understand about your topic, start by searching a broad concept related to your topic.
For example, if you're writing about the experience of returning home from a military tour of duty, search "military life" or "military reintegration." If you're writing about juggling college, work and home-life, search on the phrase "time management" if that resonates with your interests. The trick is to search on concepts or ideas that describe the life experience you're writing about.
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.
Some places to get to know your topic include Encyclopedias for Background Research, Wikipedia, the "Topic Search" in Academic Onefile, searching Credo Reference, or looking for a report in CQ Researcher.
As you read the article or report, look for new terms that describe your topic and make note of them as potential search terms.
- Academic OneFile (Gale) This link opens in a new windowAcademic OneFile is a starting point for peer-reviewed, full-text articles from the world's leading journals and reference sources. Covering the physical sciences, technology, medicine, social sciences, the arts, theology, literature and other subjects, it contains millions of articles available in full-text. Includes full-text New York Times content from 1995 to present.
- CQ Researcher This link opens in a new windowTopical, full text reports on controversial issues. Each report features a summary, chronology, and bibliography. Updated weekly.
- Credo Reference This link opens in a new windowProvides online versions of 500 published reference works, including general and specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias. Try the Concept Map to search for terms and topics that are interconnected and displayed in a visual form.
- Encyclopedias for Background Research This link opens in a new windowA selection of online encyclopedias that provides general overviews of topics across many subjects. Start here to get working definitions of key concepts and a big picture view of your topic.
Step Two: Search Terms and Articles
For this class, you will be incorporating outside sources in your writing. Looking for sources involves doing research, but you can think of it more as exploring what others have written or considered important. The idea is to expand the conversation beyond your personal narrative to include other people's thoughts and perspectives in ways that add to and support your own ideas.
To do this effectively means developing a strategy rather than just plugging words into a box randomly.
The Find Articles tab will help you put together some strategies for selecting places to search that make the most sense for your goals and constructing searches that will make sense.
Here are a few ways to think about developing lists of words to plug into databases.
Brainstorming Keywordsfrom Portland State University Library
Developing a Search Queryfrom Portland State University Library
Research 101: Building Keywordsfrom Northwestern University Libraries
Selecting Keywordsfrom Coastal Carolina University Kimbel Library
Step Three: Summarize and Cite
The last step here is bringing it all together. Summarize the research you found and cite the sources in a methodical fashion, in this case using MLA citation format. Most of this information lives on the Cite Sources tab, although you'll want to put some thought into how you construct your annotations according to your instructor's requirements.
What makes a good annotation? Here are some quick tips for writing effective annotations:
- Take notes as you read on the most interesting and relevant information and then summarize the main points in a few sentences and in your own words. Why is this a relevant and useful source?
- Evaluate the source as an information-delivery container. What makes the author authoritative? How do you know the information and analysis is credible and accurate? What is the recognized bias of the source (since most sources will have some level of bias) and why is that perspective worth considering?
- Let your voice shine! Make a few statements about why you think this particular evidence is worth including. What makes this source particularly interesting and what does it add to the conversation?
Annotated Bibliographies (Purdue OWL)Explains how to write effective annotations.