Research Strategies 1: Getting Started: Assignment Requirements

Know Your Assignment Requirements

Research Assignment and Instructor Expectations

  • Completed by due date (the Research Project Calculator can help you plan to finish on time)
  • Length of finished product
  • Sources selected and used
  • References/citation form
  • Organization and flow of ideas
  • Writing skills

Topic Selection

  • Select/define/refine/focus your idea
  • Brainstorm
  • 5 Ws (who, what, why, when, where) and how
  • Determine if you will be able to cover all the important points of your topic in the space you have to fill

Types of Resources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. It includes documents such as poems, diaries, court records, interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and some newspaper articles. It also includes research results generated by experiments, which are published as journal articles in some fields of study.

They are also sets of data, such as census statistics, which have been tabulated, but not interpreted.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe or analyze the primary sources.

Examples of secondary sources include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and books and articles that interpret or review research works.

Tertiary Sources

Examples of tertiary sources includes indexes and abstracts which serve to locate secondary and primary sources. An index will provide a citation which fully identifies the work: author, title of article, title of journal or book, publisher and date of publication, For a journal it will include the volume, issue and pagination. An abstract is a summary of the work being cited. Many indexes and abstract are available now online.

Examples
Subject Area Primary Source Secondary Source Tertiary Source
Art Original artwork Article critiquing the piece of art Art Index
History Slave diary Book about the Underground Railroad American: History and Life
Literature Poem Book on a particular genre of poetry MLA
Computer Science Original research published as a journal article Introductory textbook on programming Computer Database
Sociology Indian Education Act of 1972 Journal article on Native American education ERIC

 

Choose the Right Resource

When choosing resources for your assignment, consider:

  • Assignment requirements—what does the professor want you to cite?
  • Learn about your topic -- You may want to use a reference book like an encyclopedia (print or online) to start out with if you don't have a clear understanding of your topic yet.
  • Time—the more current the topic, the less will be found in scholarly journals or books, which take longer to get published. Recent events will be covered on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines, as well as in the media.
  • Depth of coverage and/or the topic—scholarly journals and books cover topics in more depth than magazines and newspapers. Some topics are not covered by the popular press, e.g., research that would not be of interest to the average consumer.
  • Quality of the resource - see Step 3: Evaluating Sources
Type of Information You Need Try These Resources
Does your topic cover current events? Newspapers, magazines, Internet
Do you need general information on a specific topic, written in a non-specialist style?
Newspapers, magazines, Internet
Do you need in-depth information on a specific topic, written for the college student and above by authorities in the field? Scholarly journals
Do you need more detail and/or has the topic been written about for awhile? Books
Do you need an overview, quick facts, statistics on a topic? Reference books, Internet