Conducting research is a massive part of the college experience. Students must find valuable sources and information to prepare for projects, assignments, and classes.
Sometimes it even might feel like all you do is research. Luckily, there are ways to make this process faster and more productive. In this article, you’ll find the best tips on how to approach any academic research comprehensively.
Research always follows the same structure when looking for sources to finish an essay or do a case study. It does take time and a lot of effort to find exactly what you need. That’s why many students struggle with written assignments in college.
Academic writing is a common pain point for college-goers, so many choose to pay for papers when in need. It is a valid option as it allows getting professional help from experienced writers immediately. They help with researching, editing, writing, and proofreading. And students can also learn from them some tips and tricks as well as get a better grip on what academic writing entails.
But in any case, you still need a strong research strategy. It is a scientific search for vital information on any subject of interest. So you’ll need those skills anyway, not only for paper writing.
The structure of scientific research follows such steps:
- Defining the problem. Narrow down the topic or question you need to answer;
- Finding potential sources. At this stage, you collect all the information that might be useful;
- Selection of the useful ones;
- Reviewing the available literature on the matter;
- Formulating a hypothesis or conclusion based on that;
- Data collection and analysis;
- Interpreting all the information and data and making a report on the findings.
Knowing these steps will help you to organize the process logically. It also sets the work plan when you are unsure where to start.
Tips for Doing Research Effectively
1 Create a Schedule
The first tip for academic work is to create a schedule. When you clear deadlines and the array of work, it is much easier to stay motivated.
For instance, break the project into small stages according to the structure. Set deadlines for each of them. It can be like “find 10 sources by the end of the week” or “read and make notes on these 5 articles by Monday”.
By doing this, you won’t miss anything you need to do. Also, it makes any project less intimidating because you have small actionable tasks instead of a massive pile of work.
2 Analyze the Question
In case you are working on a thesis, it is crucial to analyze the question before starting your research. The central part is that there is a tremendous amount of information. You need to narrow down the ones you need for the thesis. And to do so, cut off anything irrelevant. Occam’s razor is in action, so to say.
Make sure you understand the question and all underlying issues; crystallize the focal point and begin there.
3 Start with Wikipedia
Yes, every student knows that Wikipedia is not an academic source. But it is a good starting point if you do not know where to look for articles and books on the topic.
It also gives a decent overview of any subject with all the hyperlinks and general information. This is useful when you work on something you do not know much about.
And the best part is that it has a bibliography at the end of each page and links to actual scientific studies. This is a goldmine. Look through them and select the ones that might be useful. Now you have a starting point.
4 Check Bibliographies
Sometimes one might find an article with some information on the topic but not all they need. Or it can skim over something and deal with other issues. Could you not put it away immediately? With every paper you skim through, look into the bibliography.
This is where you can find many links to studies you might need. The best part is that scientific writing is pretty straightforward with the titles. So it is often possible to figure out what it is about just by reading the title.
Every citation or the reference you come across can potentially be something valuable. So even if this piece is not valid, check the works cited.
5 Use Scientific Search Engine
If you are looking for information online, it is essential to filter out everything irrelevant. Simply using Google is not enough as it shows many results that are not good for academia.
Instead, use Google Scholar. It is the same engine but only shows peer-reviewed and scientific results for any inquiry. This will save a considerable amount of time. And it also formulated the references in MLA, APA, and Chicago. You can click on the quotation mark sign under the result name and get a ready-to-use reference for your paper.
Another great tip is to start with academic databases online.
6 Keep Notes
It is easy to lose something when you are busy digging for gems, always keep notes on anything you read or skim through.
For example, you can create a document to note:
- Author and title;
- Date of publishing;
- Link to the site;
- Major points and concepts.
It will also come in handy when you are selecting the final works you are going to use.
7 One Subject at a Time
Do not get distracted. It is easy to jump into results and end up on a completely different side of the argument.
If you need to cover several subjects, do one at a time. This will keep your focus razor-sharp and will help to retain information better. Also, the narrower the question is, the deeper one might research it. This means a better comprehension of the concept or idea.
8 Check the Dates
There is nothing inherently wrong with citing old sources. But it all depends on the context. If you are doing a historical overview, it is fine. But if you work on the modern subject approach, ensure you work with relevant information.
When you find a text that is 20-30 years old, check whether there are any new works on this topic. You can look for those with the name of the author of the original article or book. Scientists build their argument on the existing data, so they usually reference the previous findings.
This is extremely important for statistical data. The findings from the 2010s might be outdated by now. Look into sites like Statista, scientific databases, or governmental sites to find the latest results.
9 Ask for Help
Do not hesitate to ask for help if you are stuck with something. Contact the professor during office hours or via email to ask about potential sources or research vectors. It will only show your interest in the subject and desire to work. This is always a good thing.
You can also ask the college librarian for help; they know a lot about how to find relevant information.
To make your research productive, one needs to stay organized. Evaluate the question, select the papers you might need, and narrow down the relevant ones. Stick to the schedule and always check the dates.