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English 102 Boyett: Home

Good Research Habits

  • Specific to Broad: In thinking about your issue/topic, you'll want to first consider what questions you have. Many issues seem very specific, so it will help to try and think about the broader issue. For example, the issue of smells near the Butchertown meat processing plant could be related to neighborhood gentrification.
  • Good Keywords: Then, mine those questions for keywords to use in your search.
  • Keep Good Notes! Try to record your searches and the results (this is hard, but can prove a valuable time-saver if you can't do your searching all at one time).
  • More Keywords!  Don't get locked into your first set of keywords. As you search, remember to look for additional words that might be used to describe the issue you're talking about. What are the ways professionals talk about your topic?
  • Evaluate as You Go: As you look through your results, consider point-of-view and authority. Ask from what point-of-view is the author of this (blog, magazine article, scholarly journal article, newspaper letter to the editor) writing? What is this person's authority to speak on this topic? (Is she an expert? Has he interviewed experts? Has she experienced the issue first-hand?, etc.)

Where to Look for Information

How Sources Fit Together Exercise

Take a brief look at each of the above sources. What questions might each source answer? Try to think of how they might fit together and be as specific as you can. Obviously, you'd really be reading these sources thoroughly, but for this exercise, do your best. Obviously, they are all on the same topic--so move beyond that.

Judging Credibility

The above guide provides good questions to ask about a source when you are trying to judge it's credibility. To boil it down...

1. Who is the author and what are his/her credentials (expert, journalist who interviews experts, first-hand or eyewitness, amateur with some level of knowledge, paid "talking head", etc.)

2. What is the source? (Personal blog, .org with an agenda, trusted news source, government source, clickbait blog, peer-reviewed academic journal, etc.)

3. Who is the intended audience for this piece (general readers, experts, people with a stake in the issue) and what is the piece's intended purpose? (to educate, to persuade, to get views/clicks for advertising revenue, to call to action, to sell you something?)


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Rob Detmering