How to Conduct Research for Your Research Paper

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© Ugur Akinci

CONDUCT RESEARCH – In this day and age the chances are you'll mostly rely on the Internet to conduct your research. Then, if you’re lucky enough to live close to a good library, you should of course check with your local librarian as well. You’d be amazed the kind of research help you can get (for free!) from a professional librarian.

Here are my Top Five Internet Research Sites:

1) Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com/

2) Encyclopedia Britannica Online (http://www.britannica.com/)

3) All Refer (http://www.allrefer.com/)

4) Library Spot (http://www.libraryspot.com/)

5) U.S. Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/index.html)

The main question during this phase is the RELIABILITY of the sources you'll be consulting.

With some Internet sources, like Wikipedia for example, there's a built-in self-corrective mechanism. That means, in such sources errors do exist but not for too long since it's discovered, flagged, and corrected by the community with oversees that resource.

RESEARCH RULE 1: When doing research through open-source public Internet sites like Wikipedia, stay away from fresh entries and articles. Older articles have a much higher chance of various readers and editors correcting the early factual errors and/or editorial biases.

RESEARCH RULE 2: Stay away from anonymous Internet articles and entries. If you cannot document the name, credentials and track record of the author, don’t even bother to quote it as a resource.



RESEARCH RULE 3: University presses have a rigorous fact-checking and editorial approval process in place designed to publish the most reliable books possible. If on any topic you have both a university press book and an Internet page, prefer the printed book especially if the Internet source is not signed and its author is not known.

RESEARCH RULE 4: Take notes continuously while you are reading for your research. Do not read passively. While you are reading and taking notes, actively imagine how that information will benefit your research paper and which chapter or section it will support. When you take notes make sure to note the exact page number (or URL) to include in the bibliography (or the references) section of your research paper.

RESEARCH RULE 5: Rely on PRIMARY sources and avoid SECONDARY sources as much as possible. If you are reading "On the Origin of Species" published by Charles Darwin in 1859 (or a reprint) then you’re reading a PRIMARY source. But if you are reading ABOUT that same book in another book or web site, then that is a SECONDARY source.



1) The secondary source may be quoting the primary source wrong.

2) The secondary source might be neglecting the original CONTEXT of the quote when quoting the primary source. For example, you may read that so-and-so has supported the Flat Earth theory since she wrote "I believe the earth is flat" in her Opus Magna.

However, what would you do if you went to the original primary source and found this: "Thus I do not take seriously any person who says "I believe the earth is flat""?

When you have doubts always check the primary source first (if you can) before quoting a secondary source in support of your thesis.

How to write a Bibliography

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