Research like you mean it

We’ve all had to write one before and if you’re one of the very few who haven’t, then you will get there. Some of us are lucky enough (debatable) to have had a research paper assigned in high school where the teachers walk you through everything and some of us are even luckier when our college professors are actually grad students who will do the same thing for us poor little freshmen.

In Comp I, we have three writing portfolios for the semester. The first is an autobiography, the second and third are collaborative research assignments. In the first, we simply gather our research and write source reviews. We don’t actually write the paper until the third project is due, which is the end of the semester.

Point is, research is important and here’s my tips on how to do it successfully.

Most research needs to be academic and professors usually want those sources to be from some sort of scholarly journal and if anyone’s had the privilege of reading one, they’re boring. How to get through all that material without killing yourself? Read the abstract, which most of them have. If you can sit through that, you can sit through the rest of the article. Read it in chunks. A few pages at a time, highlighting important information so you don’t ever have to read it again.

Make sure to bookmark or print out a copy and do your citation now. I keep a text document of all my citations so I don’t have to go find them at the end. Citation Machine is your friend, your hero and your savior. Choose the format (MLA, APA, Chicago or Turabian and simply input the information and it prints out the citation for you.

Zotero is a Firefox extension to help collect, manage and cite your research. I personally haven’t used it, but have heard great reviews.

To sum it up

  • Read the abstract or summary first
  • Read in chunks, taking breaks
  • Highlight
  • Bookmark the article
  • Make your citations now and keep a running bibliography

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