Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Research Process & Week 7 Up Front!

View of Davis Library's Main Entrance around 3:40 PM Tuesday 2.26.13

Yes, we’re getting close to the midpoint of the semester here at the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College and we’ve had a number of classes in for presentations on how to utilize the library resources to complete their research assignments.  So, we thought this would be a good time to resume our series of blog posts on the Research Process.  

Tim Snow, Reference Librarian, shows Rio Grande students enrolled in "Composition II" courses how to locate and search the Davis Library's online resources

Last time we stressed the importance of selecting a topic you like for your research project—one that will sustain your interest.  In this post, we’ll be focusing on the need to "Make Sure Your Topic is Workable."   

So, what do we mean by workable? 

When you’re given an assignment it’s always important to look at the requirements and the time frame in which you’re expected to complete the task.  Are you doing a 5 minute presentation or a 15 page paper?  Is it due tomorrow or 6 weeks from now?  Are you expected to take a stance on an issue or be impartial?  The parameters of your assignment will greatly influence your information searches.

Often what makes a topic “good” is the ability to find and access enough information to get a balanced and in-depth understanding of the subject so that you can discuss it with a certain degree of comfort and authority.  If an initial search for background information on the Web, in the library catalog or an electronic database yields vast amounts of information, then that’s usually a warning that your topic is too broad and may need to be narrowed down a bit.

For example, if you’re doing a brief persuasive speech on gun control, you may want to concentrate your discussion on latest debates and incidents.  Examining recent proposals to restrict the sale and access to assault weapons in the United States might be more manageable than trying to explore legislative efforts from a historical or global perspective, an approach, however, that might actually be well-suited for a much longer research project.  

Asking the standard journalistic questions “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?” can help you to focus your topic to a certain time periods, locales, population groups or schools of thought.  

In their book The Craft of Research, authors Booth, Colomb and Williams also stress the importance of considering your audience in the process of narrowing your topic.   

Thinking about its significance to others besides yourself will often give you a better sense of what it is exactly you hope to communicate on the subject—the point of view you’re trying to get people to understand.  

As you start narrowing your topic and your position on it, you’ll begin the process of formulating your thesis statement.  A thesis statement identifies the purpose and direction your research.  

In most cases, your thesis statement will change and evolve as you investigate and learn more about your topic, which we’ll discuss further in our next post in this series.  Look for "How to Find Background Information" to be addressed here soon!

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Research Process or the Davis Library, then please… “Ask Us!

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