Research Design

(Courtesy of the University of Minnesota Libraries)


Starting Your Research

A successful research paper begins with planning - a little "pre-research." Trust us, browsing through the library is not a good use of your time. Before you begin researching your paper, you should do two things:

  • Choose a manageable topic about a subject you are interested in, and
  • Determine the type of information about your topic that you need or would like to find.

In this module, you will learn a few techniques to help you find and define topics for your research, and help you understand where information is published.

Lesson 1: Discovering Topics for Research 
Lesson 2: Exploring Topics Further 
Lesson 3: Focusing Your Topic 
Lesson 4: Where information is published


Designing A Research Strategy

To save yourself time and to get the most out of your research, we suggest you plan your research in advance. As you could see from our discussion in Module 1: Starting Your Research, there is an immense amount of published information on every topic, and you'll rarely find it all in a single resource. Research is a process that involves many steps. To help strategize your time and effort, try using the assignment calculator. 
In this module, we will present ideas for developing research strategies for long papers and for short papers, and show why you should keep records during research. 

You can jump right in with Lesson 1 or choose a specific lesson from the list.

Useful Links
     Assignment Calculator

Lesson 1: Strategies for Long Papers 
Lesson 2: Strategies for Short Papers and Speeches 
Lesson 3: Keeping Records of Your Research


Finding Web Sites

Information on the World Wide Web is organized into Web sites. Each site contains at least one page and many sites contain dozens to hundreds of pages. In fact, there are more than 800 million pages on the Web [Nature 400(6740): 107-109, July 8, 1999], and this number is increasing rapidly.
With so many pages available, you need search strategies for finding sites that are valuable to you. Since anyone with a computer can publish on the Web, from government agencies to scholars and experts to the person next door, you will need techniques to evaluate the sites you find.

In this module, we will help you learn to find and evaluate Web sites, and to use search tools, such as search engines and subject directories, to find useful sites quickly and easily. You can practice by trying out the guided exercises,"Searching Yahoo" and "Searching Alta Vista."
You can jump right in with Lesson 1 or choose a specific lesson from the list.

Lesson 1: Why use the Web?
Lesson 2: Mapping Out a Research Plan
Lesson 3: Using Search Engines & Subject Directories
Lesson 4: Evaluating the Web Sites You Find


Finding Facts, Reviews, and More
     Finding Book Reviews


Book reviews are one kind of supplementary source that can serve several purposes. Book reviews can help you evaluate the usefulness of a book you'd like to use for your paper or speech, and they can help you determine how important that book is in its field - how well it was researched and how other scholars received it. 

To start, choose the first topic below:

Lesson 1: Finding Book Reviews

Lesson 2: Finding Biographical Information 

Lesson 3: Locating, Evaluating, and Using Statistics 
Guided Exercises:Interpreting Statistics

Lesson 4: Finding Film Reviews 

Lesson 5: Researching U.S. Federal Legislation

Evaluating Sources

In the "Starting Your Research" module, we talked about all the different kinds of information that are available to you - books, journal articles, and Web sources. In this module we go over some general criteria for evaluating your sources and then go into some particular tips for assessing the quality and usefulness of books, periodical articles, and Web sites.

You can jump right in with Lesson 1 or choose a specific lesson from the list.

Lesson 1: General evaluation guidelines 

Lesson 2: Tips for evaluating books, articles, and web sites


Citing Sources

Thoroughly and completely citing the sources you use for your research is a critical part of your writing. It is one of the keys by which your research becomes a contribution to the larger intellectual community. In this module, you will learn how and why to cite your sources.

You can jump right in with Lesson 1 or choose a specific lesson from the list.

Lesson 1: Why Cite Your Sources? 

Lesson 2: Write Your Bibliography with Refworks: Basics 
Guided Exercises: Setting up a RefWorks Account

Lesson 3: Write Your Bibliography with Refworks: Advanced 

Lesson 4: Using Style Manuals to Write Your Bibliography 

Lesson 5: Citing Government Publications 

Lesson 6: Citing Resources Using the APA Style 

Lesson 7: Citing Resources Using the MLA Style 

Lesson 8: Citing Resources Using the Turabian/Chicago Style