Ready? Welcome everyone.
In this workshop, myself and Chris Motto, the writing specialist, will be going over some strategies for research paper writing. My name is Holly Kuhl, I'm one of the instruction librarians and I'm mostly based on the Auburn campus. Chris.
I'm Chris Motto, I'm writing specialist, and I am on both the Auburn and Fulton campuses.
We're going to dive right in. I like to start talking about research with this, a reflection. I think the hardest part about doing research isn't the finding articles, isn't the writing the paper. It's managing your time throughout this whole process. It's really easy to get super bogged down and trying to figure out a topic. Or to do that, searching for resources and constantly finding better ones. Or getting super interested in your reading, and maybe delving too much into micro note taking. Figuring out how to balance the time management of this process is the key to moving yourself through the research process without getting overly stressed out..To start, actually I want to introduce a resource that I love showing to students, and it is this research paper planner and it's through Baylor University Libraries. This right here will be available through the PowerPoint if you want to look at it later. But basically you can see that you can put in a date you will begin an assignment. Let's pretend I'm starting my paper today. We'll say the assignment is due on 12th, we'll say the 20th. Then we go ahead and schedule the paper process. This gives me, it's telling me I have 12 days to finish. It still does this breakdown here. Here's where we're starting. Here is when we have to end.
These are the number of days you have to finish. This is very tiny too, so I'm going to see if I can, it might not let me zoom. Hope we can do a little bit there. Then you can also, if you want to grab this printer friendly version, print it out, put it on the front of your binder, in your folder or somewhere you can see is you can keep track of this process. The other thing that I think is really great about this timeline is for each step first they tell you what the step is. They're going to give you a little bit of an explanation about what you should be working on here. But they also tell you the percentage of your time you should spend doing this. Then they also give you a date by which you should be done with that. If you follow this, it's going to keep you on track. They break it down into some basic steps. Understanding your assignment is all you have to do by the end of today.
Then, for tomorrow, we're choosing a topic exploring research questions and we're actually going to delve into these steps a little bit more in my next slide. But I just want to show you how they break it down for you, right through to finalizing your paper. I wish that I had this as a tool when I was a student because I very much struggled with that time management component. I'm going to go back to our presentation on and go to our next one. I hinted when we're looking at that time management paper planner. We've got a lot of steps to the research process. This is probably not anything that's super new or foreign to you. These are things that you've done before and the research process doesn't necessarily change. It might get a bit more complex and it might require you to do some deeper thinking the further you go in your schooling. But much of this you can counter before. But I do want to just propose this way of thinking about it to you. The research process is actually not just one process, but essentially there's these two major phases to it. According to the phase that you're in, your goal in that phase is going to be a little bit different.
In the first phase we basically have discovery. Like we said before, understanding the assignment, which we'll talk about in a little bit more depth. Figuring out your topic. Then I always tell students, and like I said, we'll talk about this too in a little bit more depth later on, is that you actually can't really choose your topic or narrow the focus of your research and ask a good research question until you've done background research. The whole aim of Phase 1 is to really delve into an area that you're interested in. Figure out some of the big ideas, the concepts and terms that you might encounter. Then have enough information to ask a question that could be a good starting point for a research paper. Once you've gotten that right, having done background research, more than just clicking through Wikipedia, and having done that background research. Then you have a question and that question is directing your Phase 2.
In Phase 2, what you are essentially trying to do is find information that helps you answer the question that you've formulated in Phase 1. This is where you find your scholarly papers. Maybe you get books, you have to read those things and take notes and start figuring out what all of this means.Then ultimately create a narrative that answers your question using the information that you've pulled in this Phase 2. Again, go to Phase 1, get enough information to ask a good research question, Phase 2 answer the question you came up with in Phase 1. I'm just going to go into the steps just a little bit more. We've talked about beginning with understanding the assignment. What I always going to tell students is, first check in on the assignment prompt, whether it's in Brightspace or on paper that your professor has given you, and identify those components that are the boxes you need to check to get full credit. Things like, when is it due? You have to know that date and get it in by then to get full credit. How long does it have to be? If it has to be eight pages and you only end up writing five, that is a box that you have not checked.
Are there types of resources required? Often professors might say, I want you to use two books and for journal articles or something like that. Making sure that you're using the resources that are required and not just finding whatever you feel most comfortable using. Then also checking in with a citation and reference style that's required. Is this a class where MLA is required? Do you need to do APA? You have to cite, but how you cite is up to you as long as you're using some citation style. Checking in with those, what are the basics I definitely need to have done to get full credit? But then the next thing is, in order to meet these requirements, what are some other things to know? I think the biggest question is, what is the spirit of this assignment. Professors don't give assignments necessarily just as busy work they are trying to set up an experience for you to really gain something from. In writing a research paper, what are we trying to do? With most research papers that is, we're trying to have you bring together pieces of information to make your own claim about something. That's hard. Step 2, so we talked that Phase 1 is all about being able to ask a research question. A lot of students think, first part of doing your research is choosing your topic, which yes, but choosing a topic is different than crafting a research question. In the course of choosing a topic, you don't just pull it out of thin air. You're not like I'm going to write about elephants. Instead, you have to go deeper than that. What do elephants eat? Well, that might also already have an answer. What is going to be a topic? That is really a way to handle this idea that other people maybe have investigated. What's a different angle you could take on it? For elephants, maybe it would be, how are elephants being impacted by climate change? That is a research question. But at this phase you're just brainstorming and you're doing background research. You're skimming, reading articles, and keeping these questions in mind.
The who, what, when, where, why, how questions about this topic as you're going through resources, is really useful in terms of informing yourself, but also starting to move towards directions of. This might be an area where I can ask an interesting question. Of course, because I'm a librarian, a library project, there are resources to help you with that. I like to point students to, here's our research paper planner done. This database specifically, it's called the opposing viewpoints database. I do have this on our slides, so you'll be able to navigate back to that. Here you can keyword search, but I actually like to direct students to this icon over here that's a little light bulb and it says browse issues. If you're really at a loss for where to start, this browse issues can be helpful. It's just a bunch of categories that's been generated by the database. Let's say that you're interested in fast fashion. I can click on this and there's already a curated page. The database has put together with an overview of the topic and then also information by type of resource.
At this phase, still though, when you're doing the background research, you might want to look at the featured viewpoints. You might want to look at the reference articles and browse the article titles of some of the heavier works that maybe you're not at the point of doing it. That's one way to right brainstorm, but not just thinking off the top your head and going from idea to idea. But instead really engaging with what you see and letting that inform how you're moving forward with your topic. Let's say you've landed on your topic. The next thing is drafting that research question.
What we're moving towards in Phase 1, is drafting a strong research question. This is where I see students struggle a lot too, is even insert crafting a question. I've put these questions up on the slide as a way to help you think about the question you're coming up with and drafting. The first question is, can the question be answered? One of the examples that always makes me laugh, there was a student who pitched the research question, when will I die? Well, that's not really answerable. However, we could do something like based on your demographic information, what is your lifespan going to be like? We could phrase it differently, but that question itself is not really answerable. Is the research question adequately focused. What we mean is, like it's not too broad, is not too narrow, for example, a too broad question might be. Another example a student in class said their research question was about war and peace. I was like, the naval, and they said, no, war and peace throughout all of human history. That's so huge, especially to write like a six-page paper. Then again, 10, I can't really say what is the impact of Harry Potter on third graders in the Skaneateles School District in this specific year. I mean, it could research that, but it's so narrow that I'm going to have a hard time finding resources for that in the library databases.
Just in general, how is this going to relate to the wider world? Everything is, is the question open-ended? For example, are cigarettes bad for you? Yes. We know the answer is yes now. That stops your things. Does it assume anything about the world and humans? For example, why are elephants the worst animals on the planet? Well, do we know that they are? You could maybe argue that, but a better question might be, what animals cause destruction to the environment that impacts the world in a big way? Rather than saying, elephants are the problem. Once you have your question drafted, the last step then is finding sources. This is a whole other workshop really. Today we're really just talking through the research process. But these are the basics of what you're going to be using. You're going to use search tools. You can use Google, Duck Duck Go, but again, keeping in mind the requirements of the assignment. If your professor only wants articles from the library databases, make sure that's what you're sticking to. They're the library databases. I just have a note here, the library has 94, so we have a lot, there's really good chance that we can find something related to what you're looking for. It's just a quick review here. This is the library's website and databases to get to them.
There this top link under the Research Help menu. If I click on that, we're going to come to this listing. We actually have 97 now it looks like. Some of the most widely used ones are over here on the right. There are ways to go through the example is based on the subject that you're in. You can see opposing viewpoints is actually right over here. Library databases are a good place for that and keeping in mind types of resources at this point, and depending on your research question, you're going to be sticking with definitely books and academic articles, maybe some film and images. Encyclopedias are more of the type of resource that you're going to use in this Phase 1 to just get a handle on the topic. You're finding your sources and that is the beginning of this Phase 2, now that we have our research question, I'm going to hand it over to Chris to keep talking about delving into Phase 2.
Phase 2, is where you're really now getting your hands dirty, and you're looking at your sources, you're reading, you're taking notes, and you're comparing your sources. Understand what you're reading. If it's a source, and you're reading a paragraph or a chapter, and it is totally over your head or it's talking about information that you are not familiar with, that may not necessarily be the best source for you. Sometimes it's just a matter of even doing a Google search, and like Marco Polo and his travels. If you don't know a lot about Marco Polo or Java, you can do a quick Google search to update yourself like, this is what he was doing, this is when he was alive, and then go back into the source that you have chosen. Be open to the fact that research is taking you in a new direction. You're not married to the topic unnecessarily or your claim and that's okay, you're not quite there yet. If you recognize that Marco Polo only had a big toe, that may take you into a whole different line of research. It may have something to do with perhaps a pandemic or something to do with childbirth during the time. That may move you someplace else. Don't be totally against going down a rabbit hole, just don't get lost in the rebuttal because that can get very easy to do also. Make sure you get more diverse sources that present other views on the topic. There are always going to be people who are writers, researchers, academics who disagree. That's okay. You want to know what you're discussing and what other people have to say about it. Very often you can use that information to help support whatever your claim is, whatever your research is.
Don't get overwhelmed by the reading material. It's hard to say, especially if you have six books or journals or magazines, and then a whole bunch of tabs open on your computer. Make a list of the sources you have and determine which sections or chapters are important. You're not reading the whole book, you're looking at portions of it and you're not expected to read the whole book. You could have a book that is 900 pages. But there's only one or two chapters that have anything to do with whatever your topic is. Don't panic over that. Then the same goes with websites. Pay attention to the links on the website. Which of those links do you want to click on? Where is it taking you? God knows, that you could accidentally hit a link and it's an advertisement for a neck massager. Then you start reading. You're like, how did I get here? Just focus and don't get overwhelmed by what you have in front of you. Keywords or phrases next to each source and look for patterns. If one of your sources is talking about toes, speaking a probable of foot by the way I'm assuming it had more than just a big toe. But let's say the toes then is the topic that you start to look for. Look for that word in your other sources. You can also do references in your own when you're typing, the word has the ability to do that. You can look for those and you can just do a Control F and type in the word. It will bring up toes. If it's online, obviously it's in a website. It'll bring you to those sections or those chapters that have to do with toes. This is a really good time to weed out sources that are not at all important to your research. You may have grabbed several books.
The beauty of research back in the day when we just had stacks was that you could see the other book titles and say, Oh, this also has the word toe in it. I'm going to grab it. You bring that and you put it on your desk, and it may have nothing to do with your topic at all. That is something that you definitely want to look at. That includes that if you have tabs up on your computer, get rid of the tab if it is not necessary to use. Again, don't get overwhelmed with all of those tabs in front of you. Pay attention to ideas that you haven't thought of or those that will help support your claim. You are coming up with a claim you are writing, and then you want to use those sources to help support what you are talking about. Sometimes those people who have done vast research may introduce something new. Again, don't be afraid to take a look at it and see if it supports what you're talking about. Read critically, look for information that supports what you are saying. You want to be the authority. Your professors don't want you just quoting from sources. They want you to make a claim and then to use those sources to support what you're saying.
Then we get, of course, to the dreaded thesis or claim. The thesis statement is simply the main topic of what the whole paper is about. It tells the reader what to expect. This is what it's going to be about. This is what I'm going to be talking about. It is not the topic sentence. Rather, college essays are very often the last sentence of the topic sentence of the first paragraph. You are explaining, this is what I am talking about. Sometimes it's okay to actually write that sentence knowing that you're going to go back and get rid of, this is what I am going to be talking about. Just to keep yourself on tasks.
There are times when the claim cannot be written in just one sentence. That's okay, if it takes two sentences, it takes two sentences. Going back to what I was just talking about. Here's a trick phrase, your topic as a question, what influences did Gandhi have on society after his death? Your answer to this question will not go into detail, but we'll highlight those influences that the paper is going to be about. You're still not sure write the sentence. What I'm trying to say is, again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but you're going to go back and you will eventually delete that sentence. Because you are going to make that claim right in your paper and 99.9 percent of the time and in papers like this, your professors don't want first-person, they don't want the 'I". They assume you are the authority, so you don't have to say that. Once you complete the sentence and write the paper, make sure that the rest of the paper supports what you've introduced in that first paragraph, first or second paragraph, then get rid of the phrase as I just mentioned. If for some reason your paper does not support that first paragraph, don't rewrite seven pages. Rewrite the first paragraph.
You've done your research, you've written a temporary first paragraph thesis statement. Write that draft. Do not write with your sources in front of you. Read your sources, take notes, then close the tabs, close the books, and move them into a different room and start writing right from memory then go back to find the support. This will ensure that you're not plagiarizing. Then when it's time to find the support, you'll go into those sources, you'll find your quotes, you'll find your paraphrases and you'll use those to hold up ultimately what you're talking about.
Proofreading and editing is definitely the hardest part. You have written your paper there are probably tons of mistakes. Typing errors, the use of the wrong word, missing punctuation, missing capital letters, we all do it. That's okay. That's why you proofread and edit. When you proofread, sometimes it helps to go from the last page to the first page. Sometimes you have to read out loud and I very strongly suggest doing that. Make sure you read the words that you've actually typed not what you think you've typed. Then go through and make those edits, ask other people to read it aloud to you. Read it aloud to somebody, if they get confused, they'll often stop you and say, "Wait, can you reread that sentence?" They might say that doesn't make sense or that sounds like a run-on, or do you have punctuation? Those are the little things. Of course, your other option, one that I strongly encourage you to do is to make an appointment with myself, the Writing Specialist, or with one of our tutors. The two of you or the two of us can go through your paper and take a look at what you've written.
Revise, give yourself time to set the paper size so you can step away from it. Reread it for clarity. Does it make sense? Read it aloud. I just said that. Make sure that your paragraphs are very specific and focused. Make sure that if you're talking about, well, let's talk about elephants. If you're talking about elephants and suddenly you have a paragraph about tea cups, it's likely that that paragraph doesn't belong there. Probably in the paper itself. Or if you mentioned tea cups because let's say that Elephants used to do tricks with tea cups on the end of their trunks. Maybe then that paragraph needs to be up in that section where you talk about that. Again, ask someone you trust to read it and hand it in knowing you did all you could to make it the best draft possible.
Pretty much that's that's it. I would like to say again that both Holly and I are here or if you're on the Fulton campus, we have little Goenka is the librarian and they can help you find your sources. They can help you with the research itself. Then once you've done that, I'm certainly here. The tutors are here to help you to brainstorm and write and proofread and edit your work.
Just to go off with that, I also always tell students you're going to reach a point when you're doing this project at least once, but probably more than that when you're really frustrated and you feel like you don't know what you're doing at all. That's the time to come in and make an appointment with Chris, make an appointment with me. That's just how research goes. It's not actually easy even if you have a great system for doing it. Please reach out for help when you need it. We look forward to working with you.