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Step 1: Getting Started  

Last Updated: Oct 24, 2016 URL: http://library.aolp.org/step1 Print Guide RSS Updates
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Step 1: Getting Started

Step 1: Getting Started

 

Getting started with a research project can seem like the most overwhelming part. It does not need to be though! Follow these steps to start off on the right track:

 

 A.    Select a topic. Generally, your teacher will give you a list of topics to choose from.  Perhaps you will be assigned a specific topic instead. If given the choice, it is worth it to explore a few topics.  Choose one that will capture your interest for the duration of the project. 


B.    Gather background information. Next, gather some basic background information about your topic, especially if you know very little about your topic to begin with. Encyclopedias are excellent sources for background information.
  1. Go to:  http://library.aolp.org/database
  2. Choose World Book Online from the list. Login information for all the databases are available in the Google doc on the left column of the webpage.
  3. Once you've found a good article or two, read them carefully.  Continue to read more articles until you have a solid basic understanding of what your topic is about.
  4.  Once you've found a good article or two, read them carefully.  Continue to read more articles until you have a solid basic understanding of what your topic is about.

C.    Form a research question. After you've gained some general knowledge of your topic, you’ve probably realized that there is a ton of info out there on it!  Your job now is to narrow your topic by creating a focused research question.  This question will drive your research and help you to determine what information is relevant to your work and what is not. Your question should be focused enough that you can answer it within the number of pages required of your assignment.
 
Look at this example:
 
  •  Topic: Women in Elizabethan Society
  •  Research Question: What were the roles, responsibilities and experiences of women in Elizabethan society?

When you have created your research question, write in on the Creating Search Terms worksheet that was provided by your teacher. Need another copy? Access it here.
 
Remember that your research question CAN be changed as you progress in your research. The entire process is flexible!
 
D.    Identify key concepts/terms related to your question. Once you have a question that you are comfortable with, identify the most important concepts from that question.  Being able to identify the most important concepts will help you to locate information more quickly and efficiently later on.

Let’s return to our example: 
 
What were the roles, responsibilities and experiences of women in Elizabethan society?

The most important key concepts are:

                                    Women                  Role                 Elizabethan
 

 Write these key concepts on your Choosing Search Terms worksheet. 

E.     Identify synonyms. Not everyone will think about your topic using the same words that you do! Taking some time to come up with words that are synonyms for your key concepts in this context will help you to use databases, indexes, and tables of contents more efficiently. Your Choosing Search Terms worksheet has a table for these synonyms. Now:
 
  1. List your original key concepts at the top of each column. 
  2. Then identify synonyms and add them to their key concept column.  You can probably locate some excellent synonyms from the background encyclopedia articles that you just read!
    Need help brainstorming synonyms?  Try using an online thesaurus like this:  http://www.thesaurus.com/
 
You can add to this chart throughout the research process. Check out the example below: 


You may not need to fill in the entire chart. Fill in as much as you can but make sure all terms are relevant to your topic.  You will then be able to use these words to help you locate information in your sources. You can:
·   Look up these terms in the tables of contents and indexes of books
·   Combine terms from each column to search in databases as in these examples:
o  Mothers and Elizabethan England
o  Women and Family and Britain and 1600s
o  Women and England and Queen Elizabeth
o  Women and 1500s and England
o  Females and Elizabethan
o  Women and Work and Elizabethan
o  Ladies and Roles and Elizabethan
o Women and Household and England 1500
 
  • The combinations could be endless. It is a bit of a trial and error process. Keep trying different combinations of terms until you find the information that you are looking for!
  • Look for additional terms in the Subject Guides in the databases.

Before you move on, be sure that you have:
o  Selected a topic that interests you
o  Gathered background information on the topic and now have a general understanding
o  Created a refined and focused research question (Creating Search Terms worksheet)
o  Identified key concepts from your question (Creating Search Terms worksheet)
o  Brainstormed a list of synonyms (Creating Search Terms worksheet)
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