English 102

First Search

We'll begin with what you already know about finding information.

Go out and find information on your topic to answer the questions you have come up with, using whatever research strategies you have already learned or figured out on your own. Keep a record of your search methods and what you found.

For example, one obvious search method is to do a basic web search. You'd note down that you did a web search, keeping a record of the exact terms used in the search and other relevant information, such as the date (e.g. "searched for 'global warming' using Google on 1/14/13").

When recording what you find, make sure to include the following key information:

Include as much of this information as is available. If there are no page numbers, or the date or the author is not given, just list all the other information. Access date is important for web pages, which come and go quickly; it doesn't matter as much for books, magazines, and the like.

At the end of the week, you should have a reasonably substantial list of sources as well as a page or so-as a rough guide, say not less than a single page, no more than three-of reflection on what aspect of this topic is of interest to you. The list of sources will not be complete, and many of the sources might be of low quality. That's fine. In fact, it's an essential part of the process. I am not looking for perfection here. What I am looking for is a record of your research process in its earliest phases, which necessarily includes lots of waste.

Finally, make a list of questions that come up while you are doing your research. I want to see questions in two broad categories:

  1. Questions about the topic
  2. Questions about the research process, including how to find sources of information, what kind of sources are out there, how to evaluate sources, etc.

These questions should be specific. For example, not just "how do I find sources of information," but "where can I find detailed information about the evolution of angiosperms?"

Research is, unavoidably, a frustrating process. No matter how experienced you are, it's always a process of figuring it out as you go along, using trial and error, trying to do something at the same time that you're trying to figure out how to do it. Use that frustration by turning it into questions that you bring to class. Someone else may have found an answer, and others will thank you for expressing their question too. Just the act of writing out the question will make it more manageable and reduce the frustration.

I expect that as you gather these sources you will also naturally be thinking about their quality. Some will seem better than others, and so on. This aspect of research will become more important later on, but for now I am not requiring you to say anything about it in your notes, though you may if you wish.