One of the things that you’ll find yourself doing a lot of in college is researching. But what does that really mean?
“Research” is one of those words that everyone knows, but most people have a tough time defining, until they’ve done it quite a bit, that is. So here’s a quick overview of what you’ll be doing, and how you can use the information that you find.
Researching is Searching for Information
Most of the research that you’ll be doing is trying to find out what others have said about the topic that you’re studying. Just about every question that you’ll be faced with in college has been asked before, and you can use that fact to your advantage.
People have written research papers and journal articles about almost everything, so it’s just a matter of finding the information that you’re looking for. And this, obviously, is both the most important and the most difficult part.
Because of the vast amount of information that’s out there, you’ll have to figure out how to search for it most effectively.
Where to Find Credible Research
Fortunately, colleges have many resources that can help you out with this.
One of the first places that you should go is to the library. Ask a reference librarian to help you out. Tell them about what you’re researching, and the type of information you need, and they might be able to point you directly to a collection of books that will be really useful.
If you’re at a large university, you might even have direct access to primary source material, and that can be of great value. Primary sources are the gold standard of research materials.
Another really good way of finding information is by searching online databases. And it’s not just going to Google and searching for what you need.
Journal databases, like SPORTDiscus, LexisNexis, and JSTOR have digital copies of thousands of scholarly journal articles that are informative, professional, and, maybe most importantly, easily searchable. They’re also very expensive to use, and that’s why it’s important to take advantage of them if your school has paid for access. Most of the things that you find online will be of questionable authority, so make it a habit to do a database search first.
The Use of Research
Now that you’ve gotten started on finding this information, what do you do with it?
The most important use of research is pretty simple—you use it to support the claims that you make in your work.
Say you’re writing a paper about the treatment of depression using alternative medicine. If someone has published an article detailing research results that show that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of depression, you can use that as evidence to back up your claim.
No matter what you’re trying to prove, analyze, explicate, or discuss in your paper, you can use the professional opinions of highly educated scholars to back your ideas up.