I’m going to start at the beginning with this, since, in my experience, finding good research is a major stumbling block for students. Even though most of my students are incredibly technologically literate and spend a lot of time online, it is a mistake for teachers (or students) to assume that this is the same thing as conducting research.

This is the final entry in a series concerning the writing process. You can review the entire series at this link.


Writing Process Bonus PWhat is a credible source?

Here is the deal: the Internet is a wonderful and confusing place. It is full of information and discussions, and people who might never meet in real life communicating. Now, as you all know from social media, one of the interesting things about the Internet is that you can share your opinions with many people. On the flip side, this means that a lot of things you find on the Internet are personal opinion. If anyone can post, that means not everything is true. When you are writing a research paper, the information you use has to meet a certain standard of truthfulness.

So how do you decide what meets this standard? Here are some questions to ask:

“But what about books?” you ask. The same checks apply to books and any printed sources. You shouldn’t assume anything printed is true any more than you should assume anything on the Internet is true.

writing process bonus IHow do can you find sources?

First off, there is something to be said for print sources, and libraries are a really wonderful thing. If you are conducting research at a library, you have several choices:

    1. Browse and hope you run across something useful. - If you know your library well, this could work…
    2. Look up your topic in the library index and then find the correct section. - In this digital age, this is much simpler than it sounds. You can research keywords online, and it will give you the index number. You can also often pre-order the books you want and pick them up at the front desk.
    3. Ask a librarian. - We are conditioned to worry we are inconveniencing others by asking for help, but librarians are literally research experts. If you are not sure where to start, they can help you! They can also often give you pointers about online research. Use your local experts!

Now, if you spend a lot of time on the Internet, you probably know how to find information. However, with a little more knowledge you can find better information.

Organizing Your Research

If you are writing a research paper, it can be very tempting to organize the paper based on sources: in other words, to write one paragraph per source, basically summarizing what the source says. This is not the goal of using a source. Instead, identify similar ideas, exactly the same way you would if you were just working of a brainstorming list. DO NOT, start writing your paper and simply adopt the organization of the texts you are working with. The purpose of a research paper is synthesis, not summary.



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