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Research as a Process and Crafting Research Questions
- Ask students to begin their research with three possible topics and to conduct preliminary searches for all three. Evaluation could include: printing out the first page of results for each search and turning it in for the professor to respond to, posting permalinks to searches on Moodle for class discussion, or small group discussions in class.
- Invite students to present their research topic as an article pitch for a newspaper or magazine, giving evidence that their topic is of interest to them, feasible to research, and focused.
- Ask students to create and evaluate concept maps (using Mappio, for example) of their chosen research question. Maps that are too thin indicate that the research question needs to be contextualized or enriched, while maps with too many branches indicate that the research question needs to be more focused.
- Ask students to frame research questions for different lengths of papers. This helps students calibrate the scope of their research.
- Encourage students to develop a research strategy and keep a research log, either online via a knowledge management software package like Zotero or RefWorks, or simply in a notebook.
Searching for, Identifying, and Locating Relevant Sources
- Ask students to compare and evaluate search results from different types of search tools (free web [Google], subject-specific scholarly databases, multidisciplinary article collections, online reference collections, Primo). What are the strengths and weaknesses of each search tool? When is it helpful to search multidisciplinary databases, and when is it helpful to search a disciplinary database?
- Ask students to search for sources on the same topic, but from more than one discipline-specific database. What are the differences in results, and what does this tell you about the ways that disciplines shape the scholarly conversation?
- Ask students to create a thesaurus or glossary of search terms for their topic, with the option of presenting it as a word cloud. Ask students to turn in a copy of the search strings that they used when searching databases and catalogs.