Thursday, October 18, 2012

Research Process: Getting Started

Today’s post is a first in a series on the Research Process.  As discussed previously on our blog (see post for September 24, 2012) the Research Process is a sequence of steps used to obtain information needed to meet or fulfill a specific purpose.  In the academic setting, this activity usually involves completing some type of investigative assignment.  
Our earlier post illustrates how the Research Process relates to the development of Information Literacy (IL) skills, a primary goal of Davis Library’s instructional programs.  IL is defined by the National Forum on Information Literacy (NFIL) as “the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” 
Here we’ll be looking at the first part of this definition:  the ability to know when there is a need for information.
Getting started with the Research Process requires that you first get a really good grasp of your task or assignment.  That means taking the time to read all the directions and making a point to ask your instructor to clarify and questions you may have about the assignment.  That way you’ll know what is being asked of you, and you will acquire a better understanding of how the “need for information” fits into the overall goals of your course.

Now, self-assessment is also significant when facing an assignment or research problem.  Consider the following before you begin your assignment:
  • What skills do you have to have to accomplish the task? 
  • Do you require training on any tools or resources needed to complete the assignment—e.g., electronic databases, library catalogs, citation rules and format, word processing or multi-media programs? 
  • Are you going to need help? 
  • What kind of time frame do you have? 
  • How are going to have to adjust your schedule or lifestyle to get everything done

The Research Project Calculator, an INFOhio project based on the MINITEX project developed in part by University of Minnesota Libraries, is useful tool available that addresses these types of questions.  The direct link for this site is:  

The Research Project Calculator also provides tips on when and how to apply each of the different steps of the Research Process based on your assignment’s start and due dates.  While this tool is designed primarily for middle and high-school students utilizing INFOhio resources, it’s still very helpful–especially for those new to doing research or those who need to be reintroduced to the process.  Much of the information provided is applicable to different library or information resources, such as those available through Davis Library and OhioLINK.

In our next post in this series on the Research Process, we’ll be looking at how to select a topic.  However, before wrapping things up, there’s one more issue to mention as it often come up when combating research problems.  It’s the “fear factor.” 

So many people think they “should” know what they’re doing and asking for help is sign of weakness.  Get over it!  Research is hard work and different tasks require different approaches at different times.  Avoid those feelings of defeat and desires to wave a white flag… if you need help, “Ask Us!

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