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
Organization and flow of ideas
- Select/define/refine/focus your idea
- 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 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 describe or analyze the primary sources.
Examples of secondary sources include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and books and articles that interpret or review research works.
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.
|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||INSPEC|
|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|