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Complex Societies Project: Getting Started

Top 5 Habits of Savvy Researchers

1.  Manage time wisely.  

Because research projects are often spread out over the course of weeks, it is very important that students set deadlines and follow them.  Reading, taking notes, citing sources, and synthesizing information takes more time than you think! Students who wait until the last minute to complete work are more likely to commit plagiarism.

2. Create a system for organizing materials.

There are many pieces of information to juggle in a research project, so it is very important to track ideas, sources, and citation information. There are tools to help you achieve this, such as the outline and notecard feature in NoodleTools

3. Engage with your sources.  

The purpose of research is to learn something new and gain perspective on a topic; it is not simply to list a source on a bibliography.  You will only understand your topic when you read widely and deeply, and then process that information through writing and analysis in your notes. This deep understanding will be reflected in your final paper, presentation, or project.

4.  Follow ethical guidelines in the use and presentation of information.  

In other words, give credit for ideas or work (including photos, music, video, or other media) that is not your own in both in-text citation and in your Works Cited page or bibliography.  Also, it is important to follow copyright guidelines. Giving credit for work that is not yours is a scholarly and an ethical obligation. Unintentional plagiarism, while accidental, is still plagiarism, and can be brought before the Honor Council.

5. Be persistent.  

Research is a messy process, and you have to be creative in your approach to finding information.  Not everything is available on the internet, and sometimes you have to dig for relevant, quality information in multiple places. If you cannot find what you are looking for, seek help.  The librarians are trained to help you find information.

Database:Gale World History in Context

Database: Gale Global Issues in Context

Database: Britannica Image Quest

Do Your Presearch!

Often you will need to gather some background information on your topic before you decide on a narrower focus.  Ask yourself:
  • What do I already know?
  • What do I need to find out?
  • What information would help me answer my questions?
Initially, you may want to read some general resources to gain a better understanding of your topic.  Then, you can narrow your search by asking yourself:
  • What keywords can I use to search?
  • What synonyms, broader or narrower terms, or related ideas could I use?
  • Will proper names (people or places) focus my search?

Database Search Tips

  • Use advanced search; it will give you all of the options for searching and gives you more control over your search.
  • Use more than one search term to narrow your search.
  • Use quotes around phrases unless you want the database to search for individual words separately.
  • Limit your search to full text documents; it will save you a lot of frustration.
  • Does the database list subject terms related to the articles in the result list? Use those links to find more specific and related info.

Not finding what you're looking for? Try these tips:

  • Check your spelling.
  • Get rid of unnecessary words, especially if you are using quotes around phrases.
  • Try using other key words.
  • Use broader terms.

Note: The URL in the address box at the top of the screen is not stable for databases; if you copy and paste it into a document to use it later, the link will not take you back to the original article. Use the tools of the database to bookmark, print, email, or download the article. This simple step will save you time and frustration!