How to Find and Compile Information for a Research Paper
Writing a research paper can be a simple process or a complex one, depending on your topic. Some college professors give their students the option of choosing their own topic or assigning one. Either way, there is a process or steps to follow in order for your research paper to be a good one. Gathering information is the most important part of a research paper. Where you find your information, how you take and organize notes, are essential, come time to write your paper. I will explain, as I understand it, how to find and compile information for a college research paper. Once you have a topic and are ready to start your research, the first thing to do is decide where you will get your information from. You can search the internet or go to the public or college library and look through books, articles, databases and other documentations about your topic. I started with the internet myself. Although the internet is full of information, you may, want to start by creating a list of keywords relating to your topic.. Then search those keywords and see what information comes up. An important thing to remember is that the information you find must come from a reliable source. What I mean by reliable source is the author or writer who is stating facts must be credible. Example of this would be anything from the government or government website. Primary sources, documentation or books written by a person, themselves or by a person who knew them, is considered credible. You can also use Secondary sources, which is anything written or discussed by others who have obtained their information through research. Where you get your facts is very important. When you find a source, pertaining to your topic, make sure you have already decided which method to use, in collecting this information. Make sure you document, clearly, the following information for each source you get information from. They refer to this, as...
Cited: You will also need to know exactly what information is needed from different kinds of sources. For books, note the author’s name and title, publication information, such as date, time and city which it was published in. This is especially important when taking quotes from other works. The reader may want to check and see if your information is factual or not. Articles and websites are the same as books except you need to list the page numbers, as well. Databases are cited the same but, also require specific database information and the access date. If you have decided to interview someone as part of your research, you will need to document the person’s full name and date of the interview. Again, you need to make sure your notes are facts and from credible sources. All notes must have a reference of where your information came from. As for the information you are looking for, it should relate to your beginning topic. As you continue to research, your topic may change. You may find your topic too specific, where there is too much information or one that has, not enough, information. If this happens, just continue writing down as much information as you can. Your topic will become clearer or may even change once you start writing your paper. Be detailed when jotting down information from a source. The more detailed you are with your notes; the easier it will be to write your paper. Once you have completed your research and you are ready to start creating your paper, your notes will be your guide. Depending on how well you took notes, determines how easy your paper will be to write. Gathering information is the core of your research paper. All you need to do now is go through your notes and put them in order as you want your paper to read.
Organizing is probably the less difficult part of writing a research paper. As I mentioned earlier, how you take notes will determine how easy it will be to put it all together into one great research paper. I have always thought that an outline is the best way to organize any paper. However, I recently learned another method for taking down information researched. For each source, which you find pertinent information about your topic, take a 3 x 5 index card and write down your notes as well as the work cited information. This is the Note Card Method. Using this method comes with great benefits. The most beneficial is organization. Each card should contain short bits of information as you research. For example, keeping information limited to a single quote or an important sentence or phrase relating to your topic will make it easier to organize when the time comes. Each card should also have the source information for easy reference. Don’t worry about having too many note cards. More is better than not enough when writing a research paper. Once you completed your research, your next step is to organize your notes. Your topic may have changed while you were gathering information. This is expected. Students find that their original topic was to general and as they were gathering information they stumbled upon a more researchable one. In any case, by now, you should have a topic to write about. Start organizing your note cards according to how you want your paper to read. You may use all your notes or you may find some information useless. This method, unlike an outline of notes, enables you to move your thoughts around or change the order easily. Once you have done this, your paper is almost finished. You are ready to write.
Having never done a research paper until now, I have found that having a method for each step, has been helpful. Taking information and compiling it onto note cards with all information needed to cite the works correctly, has been time consuming. However, now that I am ready to organize my paper, I am confident that it will be a breeze to complete. The most important part of gathering the information could be easy or difficult. It depends on how you choose to take notes and the methods you use.
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