1. Developing a Research Strategy involves...
- Reading your assignment carefully
- Selecting a topic
- Stating your topic as a question
- Selecting keywords from the sentence
- Using research tools to collect information
- Evaluating the information
- Citing the information
2. Topic Selection
If your subject hasn't been assigned to you, there are some publications that can help you with ideas. Of course, if you already have an idea for a topic, you still may need to modify your subject if it is too general or too focused. Unless you have an assigned topic, you may need to be flexible in your approach when deciding upon a subject about which to write. Do a little preliminary research to determine the type and the amount of materials available. If there doesn't seem to be much available about your subject, you may want to broaden your approach. On the other hand, if there is too much, try to focus on a particular aspect of that subject.
10,000 Ideas for Term Papers, Projects, Reports and Speeches - The latest edition of this book is available at the Information or Reference Desk at the west end of the Library Media Center. It provides possible topics for a number of subject areas, and includes symbols for each topic that indicate the level of difficulty and research required for that topic.
If you have to prepare a report or give a persuasive speech on controversial issues, there are several publications which will help. Many of the books listed below are available near the Information/Reference Desk. They provide background information and different viewpoints on various issues which can help you formulate and support your own position.
Opposing ViewpoingsCurrent & controversial issues resource that provides access to 'viewpoint' articles, reference materials, magazines, newspapers, primary sources, statistics, and multimedia on current topics.
[Access Opposing Viewpoints]
CQ Researcher (1991 to the present) - This is an excellent resource for obtaining background information, chronologies, viewpoints, and a bibliography of selected books, reports, and articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers on many contemporary topics. Published 50 times per year, it covers a wide range of subjects, and is a very good place to begin your research.
[Access the CQ Researcher]
Issues and Controversies (1995 to the present) -Provides current, in-depth, and objective information on contemporary issues. Coverage begins in 1995. This is the on-line version of the print Issues and Controversies collection on the Contemporary Issues Index table.
[Access the CQ Researcher]
Information Plus series - this is another good source for obtaining background information on contemporary topics. Currently there are approximately 28 volumes in this series, each devoted to a topic, such as Abortion, Aids, Immigration, Transportation, etc.
Other series (listed below) - provide pro and con arguments on a number of issues. For each issue, two opposing positions are presented in brief eessays, usually 5-8 pages each. These essays have often been previously published in other books or journals. If you use these, you will want to consult the research guides for citing controversial topics for the proper format to document them in MLA format.
Specialized subject encyclopedias - These are in the Reference Collection. These encyclopedias are not only good sources for exploring ideas, but also for providing you with some background information about a topic - in more detail than you would find in a general encyclopedia. Ask the the Information/Reference Desk for assistance in locating one that is appropriate for your topic or interest.
Some Web sources include:
- American Civil Liberties Union - for issues involving civil and constitutional rights.
- Common Dreams - issues from "the progressive community."
- The Drudge Report - editorials from leading columnists on current topics and more.
- Idea Generator - (from Old Dominion University) - just lists of topic ideas, no links to any information.
- Online Backgrounders - information on contemporary issues from PBS's NewsHour (online transcripts of interviews and background reports).
- Public Agenda Online - non-partisan public opinion and policy analysis for a broad range of issues.
- Research the Issues - (from Project Vote-Smart) - comprehensive list of issues; all links are annotated.
3. State Your Topic as a Question
It often helps to formulate your thesis statement by stating it as a question, e.g., "Is animal experimentation ethical/moral?"
4. List words or phrases that are appropriate for your subject
Either from your own knowledge of a topic or based on your reading from some of the resources you've used to obtain ideas and background information, compile some relevant terms on the subject. This will help you use the catalog to locate books, the databases to locate articles, or useful web sites. You may also identify terms that are not relevant to your subject which you want to eliminate from your searching.
Subject and Keyword Searching
Catalogs and indexes enable you to search (1) by using subject terms that have been assigned to that book or journal article or (2) by searching for individual words in a keyword format.
Subject searching uses a "controlled vocabulary" of terms assigned to a topic, such as the subject headings assigned to books by the Library of Congress. This method of searching helps you find relevant books or journal articles efficiently.
Keyword allows you to look for a word wherever it appears in a database. Most databases and web search engines will allow you to combine terms using AND (to narrow your result), OR (to broaden), or NOT to eliminate terms) in order to retrieve articles that are appropriate.
ANIMAL AND (RIGHTS OR EXPERIMENTATION OR WELFARE) will retrieve records with those combinations of terms.
The databases will usually provide instructions that will guide your through the process.
5. Use the following library research tools
You can identify relevant books via the Web using the MCCD Library Catalog or select "Locate Books and Media" on the library home page. Search by subject, keyword, author or title. You can also specify types of items (books, videos, etc.), languages, and libraries if you wish. Books not at GCC can be obtained on interlibrary loan from other campuses.
Locate Articles in Periodicals
Select "Locate Articles and Databases" on the library home page. There are a variety of databases you may want to use to find articles on your subject. Read the information about the databases and especially how to search their contents in order to maximize the effectiveness of your search. Many of the databases have full-text articles that can be printed, downloaded, or e-mailed to another computer account/address.
(Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers)
Some instructors will require you to use an article from a "journal" rather than (or in addition to) a "magazine." Sometimes this will be referred to as an "academic journal" or a "scholarly journal." For guidelines on the characteristics of academic journals, check out the scholarly journal page.
Those affiliated with Glendale Community College may access most of these databases from off campus. To do so, you must (1) have your ID validated in the library system (do this a the library Circulation Services desk or (2) have your MEID account activated (do this online or at the library computer commons or in HT1 or HT2. For information on the Instructional Palette, go to Standard Suite of Tools at GCC. If you have any difficulty accessing these databases, please contact the library at 623.845.3112.
Locate resources on the Internet/World Wide Web
It's a good idea to read about advanced search techniques for search engines and evaluation criteria that you may need to employ when using web sites.
6. Evaluate the Information
It is always a good practice to "consider the source" when you are gathering information for your topic. This applies to books, periodicals, information on a web site as well as personal interviews. Some things to consider include:
For books and journals, such criteria as the credentials of the author, the publisher of the book or periodical, and the reputation or nature of the periodical (e.g., is it a scholarly journal?) are factors you want to check. There are a number of sites identified by the English Department to help you evaluate and cite web resources.
- Information collected should support your original topic
- Consider the autor's credentials
- Consider the source - scholarly vs. popular
- Primary vs. secondary source
- Accuracy, bias, timeliness, and completeness
7. Citing the Information You Use
You will need to determine what style or format your instructor wants you to use in documenting your research. At GCC, most instructors use either the MLA (Modern Language Association) or the APA (American Psychological Association) style manuals. Print editions are kept at the Library Information - Reference Desk.
The GCC English Department has prepared a guide that is distributed to English students.
REMEMBER! THE LIBRARIANS ARE AVAILABLE TO ASSIST YOU.