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LIS2004 Strategies for Online Research | Prof. Machado Dillon

This guide contains resources for students of Prof. Machado Dillon's LIS2004 course.

LIS2004 Lesson 3

Learning Outcomes

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Recognize the purpose of selecting a research topic is to learn new information, solve problems, answer questions, and/or generate new ideas
  • Explore and organize concepts related to a research topic
  • Formulate a research question of an appropriate scope for the assignment
  • Generate keywords and synonyms based on a research question

Information Literacy Competencies

You will apply and learn about information literacy competencies while completing this learning module.

  • The primary competency related to this module is Searching as Strategic Exploration
  • The primary knowledge practice is to determine the initial scope of the task required to meet [your] information needs

Introduction

Whether you are searching for traditional print library resources or using electronic, online resources, the development of a search strategy is essential.  A search strategy is simply a plan for conducting your information search.

This is the general overview of an effective search strategy:

  • Start with a general topic
  • List all the concepts and themes related to the topic using a concept map
  • Focus the topic so that it is appropriate for the assignment – you may need to narrow or broaden your topic
  • Develop a guiding research question
  • Create and refine keywords and synonyms based on your research question

Online search tools and resources appear and disappear daily, but the strategies and processes of searching for information remain constant.

While this module focuses on developing search strategies for the open online environment (such as websites found via Google or Bing), you will find that these same strategies are transferable to other research tools, such as subscription library databases, which we will explore in greater detail in Module 5.

Selecting a Research Topic

Before attempting to search for open online resources, you should have a clear idea of your topic and the kinds of information you will need.

(3:10, Creative Commons License)


Not sure where to begin? To identify a research topic, try:

  • Suggested topics from instructors, texts, or readings

  • Your own business or personal interest area

  • Browsing the following websites and your library’s subscription databases. The websites are geared toward college students so they’ll be especially helpful for your assignment.

Internet Websites

College Library Databases

ProCon.org

717 Good Research Paper Topics

MDC Learning Resources:

Opposing Viewpoints in Context

SIRS Researcher

Issues and Controversies

CQ Researcher Plus Archive

 

To Log On:

Username = MDC student or employee number

PIN = last 4 digits of MDC student or employee number

Focusing Your Topic

When writing a paper, you should focus on narrowing your topic as much as possible. Start off by asking yourself these questions. What do I already know? What do I think I know? What do I need to know?

A concept map can help you organize concepts central to your research topic. Here are a few examples:

Main Topic with corresponding Key Concepts Main Topic: Childhood Obesity, Key Concepts: Parent Responsibility, Issue in Adulthood, Holistic Approach, Diet and Exercise, Medical Treatment, School Responsibility

Branching out from the topic (if religions promote peace, why do so many world conflicts revolve around religion?) bubble are general keywords (Christianity, Islam, war, peace, etc.), people or groups (Gandhi, media, ISIS, Taliban, etc.), specific locations or events (Middle East, Syria, genocide, etc.), additional keywords (Muslim, Native Americans, Jew, etc.)

Stating Your Topic as a Research Question

To state your topic as a Research Question

  1. Start with your topic: e.g. Climate Change
  2. List all the concepts and themes related to the topic using a concept map.
  3. Generate a research question using an idea from your concept map, e.g., Why is climate change such a controversial topic?

Here is a concept map in action:

Branching out from the topic bubble are general keywords, people or groups, specific locations or events, additional keywords

Branching out from the topic (why is climate change such a controversial topic?) bubble are general keywords (climate change, pollution, epa, etc.), people or groups (politicians, Americans, scientists, etc.), specific locations or events (United States, UN Conference, etc.), additional keywords (oil, carbon footprint, global warming, etc.)

 


Developing a Research Question

How to develop and narrow a topic by creating a research question.

(5:07, Creative Commons License)


Developing a Research Question

What is a research question and how to choose a topic?

(4:33, Creative Commons License)

Formulating Your Thesis

Your research question helped you brainstorm and explore your topic in order to learn a little bit more about it. An open-ended research question cannot be answered yes or no.

My sample topic: Why is Climate Change such a controversial topic?

The thesis statement should answer your research question in two parts: WHAT and WHY.

WHAT? Climate change controversy (What claim are you making about your topic?)

WHY? Predicting weather, opposing views, and media coverage (Why should we care about your claim? Why is it important?)

Thesis: Climate Change inspires controversy because of the uncertainty of predicting future weather patterns, debate between scientists and politicians, and the biased reporting from the news media.

Review

In this module, you have learned how to:

  1. Recognize the purpose of selecting a research topic is to learn new information, solve problems, answer questions, and/or generate new ideas

  2. Explore and organize concepts related to a research topic

  3. Formulate a research question of an appropriate scope for the assignment

  4. Generate keywords and synonyms based on a research question