When high-school essays are gone and college research papers come instead, some students struggle to understand the difference. The guidelines contain a lot of new information and concepts one may not have grasped yet. Many young students lack experience in research and, thus, make mistakes that may cost them a grade. Yet, there is a way out. We have prepared a guide that will explain how exactly one should conduct research to decently present the results later.
Let’s admit, the research itself can last longer than actual writing, and not every student has time for it. They have numerous other assignments and lack a free week to sit and go through the literature or data without getting distracted. Whether you need some information for research, extra tasks handled, or a whole paper completed, you can send a ‘write my papers’ request and focus on the task you deem the main one. If it is the research you are aiming at, start reading through sources to find the gap in research, formulate a research question or hypotheses, and get to work.
Decide on the Approach
A primary research approach depends on the subject as well as your ability to perform different types of analysis. Basically, you will often need to choose between quantitative and qualitative analysis.
If you are not good at calculations and software like SPSS, choose the qualitative one. It will require results from interviews, open-ended questionnaires, or photos. Of course, if you are a STEM student, calculations are integral, but you can also go with the mixed approach.
Anyway, when choosing the quantitative path, remember that your research can’t be considered quantitative if it contains little to no of your calculations. The results should be transparent, explained, and supported with raw data added to the appendices.
Get an Approval of Methodology From Your Supervisor
Before starting collecting data for results, agree on the approach with your teacher to avoid rewriting the content. It is not obligatory to complete a full draft of Methodology. Just draft a couple of pages with an outline and summaries of subsections:
- Philosophy (what concepts will guide your research);
- Approach (what data you are looking for);
- Sample & Population (what you will research);
- Data Collection (how you will research it);
- Analysis (how you will analyze your findings);
- Ethical Considerations (whether there are any ethical issues; if some are present, describe how you will deal with them).
If the supervisor has some suggestions, make the corrections, get the final approval, and only then proceed.
Get an Approval From the University Board
Primary research often translates to communicating with other people for the purpose of collecting data. Although lab samples or photos taken by you can also be a part of primary research, they will probably not require any approvals.
Meanwhile, when dealing with questionnaires or interviews, it is a must to draft all the extra documents like consent form, ethics form, description of the research and its conditions, etc. After you submit them to your professor – or, more often, your university board, – do not start writing a full Methodology or Results chapter, do not contact the participants. If the board or your supervisor decides that it is better to conduct secondary research due to some circumstances, you will just have to erase that content and cancel meetings.
Go Through Several Databases
One of the common mistakes students make when researching a topic is looking for information just through the Google search engine or Google Scholar. The latter is not bad, yet, reputable and time-proved databases like Scopus are always preferable.
Here are the lists of databases for several subjects just for you to know that there are plenty of resources except for Google and Google Scholar.
- AMS Open Math Notes
- Current Index to Statistics
- Philosopher’s Index
- Oxford Handbooks Online: Philosophy
- Cambridge University Press Philosophy E-Books
- Nexis Uni
- Early English Books Online America: History and Life
- New York Times Historical Archives
- Early English Books Online
- Nexis Uni
- Bloomberg Law
- ProQuest Congressional
- Gale Literature Resource Center
Create a Folder For Sources
Whatever you access online and use in your work, save it somewhere to be able to recheck the information later. It can be your own decision or a request from the reviewer to indicate specific pages or provide correct ones for citations.
If you rely on the browser history, it will take a lot of time to go through it and find the one you need. In the worst-case scenario, history will let you down and you will not find even half of your sources. Sometimes, it leads to rewriting whole chunks of content.
So, if you want to avoid such problems, bookmark the sources, better separately from other bookmarks. Consider downloading the sources to your computer. It will save you a lot of RAM that will be consumed by numerous tabs in the browser.
Get Acquainted With Boolean Operators
These include AND, OR, and NOT operators that help researchers narrow down or broaden their search for information. AND standing between two words means that both of them should be present in the source. OR allows showing results that contain at least one of the words. NOT helps you to exclude irrelevant results in case you get ambiguous results half of which are not related to your subject area or simply provide off-topic information.
Read All Recent Materials
Using old sources is not preferable unless they are some seminal works you need for Literature Review and Discussion. Obviously, subjects like history or law call for sources that are many years old. Still, an update on the old events, a new perspective or fresh facts are a must to include.
Create a Literature Matrix
As you are going through sources you will (or may) use in Results, mind that they should pass a thorough face-control. First of all, to be eligible for use in the Results chapter, sources should be primary. Create a table with columns for check marks and some comments. Use the quality assessment tools that have been approved in your subject area and assess each source.
As soon as you have enough sources that meet the quality criteria, delete those that did not pass them. That way, your research will be more valid and trustworthy.
Composing the same table for your Literature Review chapter will also be helpful, but do it only for yourself. The matrix meant for the Results chapter will be appended to your paper, but the one with secondary sources will not be of use to anyone but you.
By using the matrix, you ensure the quality of your research and have evidence of it for anyone who may inquire. Does it take a lot to assess all the literature? Quite a bit, but it helps avoid mess and major revisions. So, do use it.
Mind that whenever you want to make significant changes, it should be discussed with your supervisor. Otherwise, you may collect data that will not be used in the end or write irrelevant content. As you can see, research presupposes a lot of work. However, if you conduct it properly, the very writing will be a piece of cake.
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