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Unformatted text preview: © Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock 3 Under normal conditions the research scientist is not an innovator but a solver of puzzles, and the puzzles upon which he concentrates are just those which he believes can be both stated and solved within the existing scientific tradition. —Thomas Kuhn (BrainyQuote, 2010) American physicist and writer (1922–1996) soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 27 The Research Process This chapter introduces you to a step-by-step process for developing academic research papers. A research paper is developed in three different phases, and each phase has several different tasks that must be completed. It is impossible to construct a research paper in a single sitting, so time management is critical. Beginning your research assignments early is an important component of a successful research project. 7/7/10 2:04 PM In Chapter 1, we defined research as a formal process of acquiring knowledge to learn the truth about a subject. In this chapter, we outline this formal process and the tasks you must complete to develop research papers for your Ashford University courses. We discuss each task in the process separately; however, it is important to remember that, at times, these tasks will overlap. When you conduct research, you gather information, read it, think about it, and take notes, often at the same time. Because these tasks often occur simultaneously, one often stimulates the other, and you find yourself moving forward and backward in the research process, rather than moving in a straight line from one step to another. 3.1 Overview of the Research Process We can divide the research process into three main phases: a discovery phase, an assessment phase, and an integration phase. Each phase has several tasks that must be completed on the path to developing your final research paper. These tasks don’t always follow in a step-by-step manner; at times they may overlap, or you may find yourself performing more than one task at the same time. But it is helpful to think about academic research as having these three principal phases. That way you can plan your time and not become so wrapped up in one phase of the process that you do not allow enough time for the other two phases. The first phase of the process is the discovery phase, and you might think of it as the planning and searching phase where you select a topic and gather information to discover what others have written about the topic. You should begin the discovery phase in week 1 or week 2, at the latest, when you have a course that requires a research paper assignment. Although you may go back to conduct some additional research later, you should be essentially finished with the discovery phase in week 3 of the course, to allow yourself sufficient time to complete the second and third phases of the process. We can recap the second phase of the research process, the assessment phase, as the point at which you use the critical thinking skills we explained in Chapter 1 to assess the research materials you found and what you learned from them. This is the phase at which you “make sense” of the information you have gathered and draw some conclusions from your research. Finally, in the third phase of a research paper, you will actually write the paper, weaving together your ideas and the information you learned from your research in a specific format. This phase will usually begin in week 3 of the course and will continue through week 5, when your final research paper will be due. In this chapter, we discuss the first two phases of the research process and the tasks that must be performed in each of these phases. The third phase of the process will be discussed in detail in Chapter 6 when we walk step by step through the tasks of actually writing the paper. Staying on Track As you can see, a research paper is a sizable project. In some colleges and universities, you may have a 15- to 18-week semester to complete such a project. In your accelerated program here at Ashford University, your research assignments are structured to be achievable in a 5-week timeframe. However, you will need all 5 weeks to complete all tasks in the research process. In Ashford courses that have a research assignment, you will usually be assigned the paper in week 1 of the course, and you may be required to prepare and submit intermediate sections of the assignment each week, with the final paper due at the end of the course. These intermediate assignments due during the 5 weeks can help you stay on track with your soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 28 7/7/10 2:04 PM research assignment because they will be actual sections of the final paper you are writing in advance and can then revise and edit before the final paper is due. © Polka Dot Images/Thinkstock Balance Is Crucial A research paper is like a chain of ideas that are linked together to form a unified whole. It might be helpful to visualize a research paper as a chain of ideas that are linked together to form a unified whole. The length of a chain is unlimited; links can always be added. The same is true of research. As we stated in Chapter 1, research is cumulative, and it can go on indefinitely. Thus, it is critical that you allocate your time wisely and balance the time you spend on each phase of the research process so that you can complete the final research paper on time. Take care not to get so bogged down in gathering information and data that you do not move ahead in the research process. Researchers built on one another’s work, so a tremendous amount of research material is usually available on any given subject. This abundance of material can lead to three significant dangers in conducting research: • Having a research problem or issue that is too broad, which results in too much time spent gathering information and too much information to handle in the time allowed • Getting distracted in the library or on the Internet and not staying on task • Getting bogged down in one phase of the research process and not moving ahead in a timely manner To guard against these dangers while you conduct research, it is imperative that you use your available time wisely. We suggest some strategies below that you can use to manage your time, so that you can stay on track. 3.2 Strategies for Success It is never a good idea to procrastinate on course assignments, but we have all been known to cram at the last minute to make a deadline. With a short paper, you might be able to wait until the last minute and be successful despite your procrastination. However, you cannot succeed on a research assignment with that approach. You must start on your assignment in week 1 to successfully complete the assignment. It is also important to remember that your research assignment is the largest percentage of your course grade; it is impossible to pass the course without doing well on this assignment. Below are three strategies to help you be an effective researcher and to use your time most effectively. A Time for Everything To make sure you stay on track with your research projects, at the beginning of the course we suggest you create a five-week calendar devoted to your research assignment. You can use any type of calendar you have soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 29 7/7/10 2:04 PM © iStockphoto/Thinkstock at home or at work or create your own calendar on Microsoft Word. Search for the term “calendar” on the Word Help menu to access the Calendar Wizard. On your research calendar, enter the due dates for any intermediate assignments related to your paper. Then, build in blocks of time the week each intermediate assignment is due to work on that assignment. Finally, schedule research time of 20–60 minutes every day to make some progress on the other research tasks necessary to complete the final paper. Remember that research tasks usually overlap. You should be working on the next intermediate assignment or gathering research information and data for the final paper during the same week you At the beginning of the course, create are finishing an intermediate assignment. If you have longer peria five-week calendar devoted to your ods of uninterrupted time on some days, that is wonderful. Howresearch assignment. ever, you will make better progress if you take small steps and “chip away” at a research task rather than wait for large stretches of research time. Try to plan and work ahead on research papers; do not wait until the week an intermediate assignment is due to begin that assignment. Unforeseen problems in finding research information or organizing information often occur, so you should try to build in a “cushion” of time for last-minute problems. No Day Without Progress © Imagesource/photolibrary Each day, make sure you complete some element of the research assignment, even if you transcribe only one note or conduct one brief search in the Ashford Online Library. The Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” is applicable to large projects such as research assignments. Make sure you take at least one step every day toward your research goals and perform some task related to the assignment. No Wasted Wait Time Plan ahead. When you have a doctor’s appointment, ride the bus, pick up children after school, wait for the clothes dryer at the Laundromat, or engage in other duties that may require some wait time, make sure to have some of your research materials with you to work on while you wait. Use all spare time wisely and multitask whenever possible. Use your spare time wisely as you prepare for your research assignment. 3.3 Three Phases of the Research Process Imagine that someone dumped 2,000 jigsaw puzzle pieces on a table in front of you. If you wanted to put together the puzzle, it might help if you had some idea, first, of what you were trying to create. You might begin by examining the puzzle pieces to get some impression or preliminary image of the various elements in the final picture. Then you could devise a method of sorting the pieces and grouping them together into some logical and manageable piles. Perhaps you would separate the pieces that have straight edges from pieces that go in the middle. You might also speculate that the blue pieces would be part of the sky, while the green pieces would probably be grass or trees. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 30 7/7/10 2:04 PM In Chapter 1 we defined the research process this way: © Jupiterimages/Comstock/Thinkstock) A research project is similar, in many ways, to putting together this jigsaw puzzle. When you begin the research process, you may have thousands of potential puzzle pieces. As you search a library or the Internet for information about a subject, you will most likely get hundreds or possibly thousands of “hits” in your search. Like the jigsaw puzzle, you must obtain a preliminary picture of how the finished research paper might look and what elements it will contain. Then you need a strategy for dividing the research tasks into some logical and manageable structure and determining where each piece of the puzzle might go. Putting together a research paper is similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Formal research is a systematic process of acquiring knowledge. This process involves setting out to study a specific subject; gathering and recording information about that subject; interpreting, analyzing, evaluating, organizing, and synthesizing that information; documenting the sources used during the study; and reporting the research. One of the most important methods of managing a research project is to break this large project into manageable tasks so that you can follow the time management strategies outlined above and make progress every day. Figure 3.1 illustrates the entire research process and can be a useful guide as you develop your research projects. You should print this document, keep it for reference, and refer to it often over the next five weeks. Also print the “Structure of a Research Paper” in Chapter 6 to serve as an outline of what your final paper will contain as you read through the first two phases of the research process below. The Discovery Phase The first phase of the research process involves designing your research study and discovering a clear direction in which to proceed with your research. You might consider it the picture on the front of the puzzle box that helps you determine what the puzzle should look like when it is completed. You want to avoid wasting time, if possible, by setting off on the wrong trail and having to backtrack. Therefore, this first phase of the research process is critical. Let us get started. © iStockphoto/Thinkstock Get Started You may want to consider using some of these supplies when you are conducting research. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 31 Before beginning your research project, you should gather a few supplies that may be helpful along the way. Consider these items your traveling research portfolio. You will want to have these items with you at all times during the next five weeks, so you may want to keep them in a backpack, briefcase, or tote bag that you can quickly pick up and carry with you whenever you leave home. Here are some research supplies you may want to consider. • A spiral notebook, tablet, and/or index cards to record information • Handouts from this course that you print and carry with you • Pens, pencils, and highlighters 7/7/10 2:04 PM Figure 3.1 Three Phases of the Research Process Get started. Select a topic. Conduct preliminary research to limit the topic. Develop a research question or hypothesis. Gather data. Interpret information and take notes. Record sources. Review materials. Analyze information. Evaluate information and evidence. Form conclusions. Plan the paper. Organize information. Integrate information. Revise. Edit. Proofread and format. Document sources. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 32 Discovery Phase Assessment Phase Integration Phase 7/7/10 2:04 PM • • • Tape flags, Post-it® Notes, and/or bookmarks Large and small paperclips, rubber bands, and a stapler A laptop computer or personal digital assistant (PDA) such as a BlackBerry, an iPhone, or an iPod Touch A key to effective research is to be organized. Every researcher has probably had the experience of putting together the research paper, in the last phase of the research process, and discovering that critical source information for the paper is missing. It can be extremely time consuming to backtrack and try to find missing reference information, so the more organized you can be throughout the research process, the less stress you will experience and the more time you will save at the end of this process. The first decision you should make about your research is how you plan to record ideas, key words, questions, data, summaries of your research, and documentation of your sources. If you have not conducted a great deal of research in the past, you may have to experiment with different recording methods until you find one that works well for you. Below are some options for you to consider. Many people like to keep a research journal in the form of a spiral-bound notebook with ruled paper to record their research. These notebooks are inexpensive and can be purchased at any drug store or office supply store. The advantage of this method of recording information is that all your notes are in one place and do not become lost. A disadvantage, though, is that it is difficult to move around information and to put it in a different order from the way in which you recorded it. To allow pages to be reordered, you may prefer an 8½- by 11-inch ruled tablet with pages glued at the top or notebook paper that is three-hole punched. These methods allow the tablet to be inserted into a folding portfolio or the paper to be put in a three-ring binder. Pages can then be easily separated and rearranged, as needed. Another method many researchers use to record research information is to write different ideas or information on either plain or lined index cards. Index cards are also inexpensive and can be purchased in various colors that allow you to color code different types of research information you gather, such as background information, data, and source citations. They can also be sorted and rearranged later. Some researchers prefer standard 3- by 5-inch index cards; others like the larger 4- by 6-inch size that allows for longer notes. If you decide to use index cards, consider securing the cards with paper clips or rubber bands to prevent them from becoming lost. Still other researchers use a laptop computer and prefer to record information on a blank Word® document and save it electronically. If you use this method, make sure to create a backup file on a flash drive in case of computer crashes. Also ensure that you have a notebook or research journal, as well, to record ideas that occur to you when you are away from your computer. Sometimes the best ideas appear when we are relaxing or thinking about other issues. Select a Topic In some instances, you may be assigned a specific topic to research or be given a list of topics from which you can choose one of interest to you. At other times, you may be asked to select a topic yourself. Keep the following points in mind about your topic selection. • • • Research deals with issues that are controversial, on which two or more points of view exist, and issues that are not completely understood. Make sure your topic fits these criteria. Choose a topic you care about and one you would like to investigate; it is much easier to spend five weeks on a topic you find interesting than it is to research one that bores you. Remember that you must narrow the topic and the scope of your research; it is much better to cover a narrow topic more thoroughly than to cover a broad topic in a general manner. At this point in the research process, reviewing information on Web sites such as Wikipedia, or Ask.com can often help you obtain background information and learn more about possible topics. You cannot use these soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 33 7/7/10 2:04 PM Web sites as sources for your college research papers; however, make sure to check the references at the bottom of Wikipedia pages. They can often lead you to other sources of information for your papers. Once you have a topic idea, move quickly to the next step in the research process and begin to conduct preliminary research. If you are having trouble selecting a topic, ask your instructor or teaching assistant for help immediately; don’t waste valuable time floundering and get behind on your research assignment. Conduct Preliminary Research to Limit the Topic The purpose of preliminary research is not to gather information about your topic; instead, it is to help you select some specific aspects of the topic you want to research and to limit or narrow the scope of your research study. However, you should record the location, title, and author of any information you find that you think might be useful later. Because you are usually conducting secondary research, rather than designing an original research study, others must have studied the specific aspects of the topic you want to explore for you to have information to gather. Therefore, preliminary research helps you select some aspects of the topic to study and to determine if enough, too much, or too little information is available on those aspects of the topic. An overly broad topic, one on which too much information exists, will be difficult or impossible to handle in the five-week period allowed for your assignment. On the other hand, an overly narrow topic will be so specific that you may not be able to find enough information to make your paper interesting and to form any reasonable conclusions. Your preliminary research should help you find a manageable topic and limit your topic. It will also give you ideas about alternative search terms you can use in your research and other possible aspects of the topic you could explore. Remember to have your research journal, tablet, or index cards with you as you conduct your preliminary research so that you can record notes and ideas. You can conduct preliminary research in the Ashford Online Library or in a physical library. Do not conduct this research, however, on the Internet. Internet sources will not give you an accurate idea of the range of materials available for your research. For your Ashford courses, the most efficient way to conduct preliminary research is on either the EBSCOhost or ProQuest databases in the Ashford Online Library. These databases contain a wide range of materials, from a variety of different sources, that will enable you to determine if the topic you want to study is manageable for a five-week course. When you use these databases, however, click on the Advanced Search tab after you have selected the specific database(s) you want to use and check the “Full Text” or “Full Text Only” box. This will allow you to search complete articles in the database that contain the full report of the research, rather than just an abstract. For example, suppose you have been assigned to research a topic on child development. If you search using the keywords “child development” in the ProQuest databases in the Ashford Online Library, you will find close to 70,000 articles on this topic. Obviously, it would be too time consuming to research all these articles. So, scan through a few pages of your search results and look for patterns of research. You will notice from the titles of the articles that researchers tend to study children in specific age groups such as “early childhood” or “adolescents.” So, one way you will probably want to limit your research is to select a specific age group to study. You might also see that researchers have studied children all over the world. You could also consider narrowing your search to children in the United States. Let us say you are interested in early childhood development. As you browse through two or three pages of search results, you notice that research has been conducted on the following specific aspects of early childhood development: bedtime routines, daycare options, speech development, problems faced by adopted children, and techniques for teaching young children to swim. Select one or two of these specific aspects that are particularly interesting to you. Let us say you choose bedtime routines. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 34 7/7/10 2:04 PM You might also notice that at the top and bottom of your search results page, ProQuest provides links titled “About” and “Refine Search,” as well as a list of possible topics and alternative search terms. Explore these links, topics, and terms for more information about your topic. It is impossible to say how many research sources are sufficient; the number will depend on the requirements of your assignment, the amount of information you learn from each article, the quality of the information, and other factors. At this stage of the research process, your goal is simply to determine if the topic is researchable and manageable. © Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock At this point, conduct another search through the databases using the search term “childhood development bedtime.” You will notice that this search brings up 40 articles, which is a more manageable number. You might want to read the abstracts of several of these articles to get more information about exactly what the researchers studied and how they conducted their research. Let us say that you looked at the alternative search terms ProQuest provided and you decided to search again using the search term “child development bedtime.” This time, your search yields 400 articles, which gives you many more How would you narrow your search options for possible aspects of this topic to study. Because when researching bedtime routines for ProQuest lets you see 30 articles on each page, you will have children? to browse only 14 pages to see all the research articles from this one source, which is a reasonable amount of material on the topic without being overwhelming. Browse the titles and abstracts of these articles to help you limit the scope of your research to something you believe at this point is manageable. When you have what you believe is a reasonable topic to research, you are ready to move on to the next research task. You can always broaden or limit the search further, at a later time in the research process. Develop a Research Question or Hypothesis Once you have limited your topic to a researchable and manageable level, your next task will be to develop a research question that you will attempt to answer or a hypothesis that you will test in your research. Review information in Chapter 2 if you are uncertain about how to phrase the research question or hypothesis. Be sure to phrase your research question or hypothesis in a way that you can observe or measure results. For example, on our child development topic, the research question might be, “Does having a prescribed bedtime routine help children fall asleep faster?” Phrased as a hypothesis, the statement might be, “My hypothesis is that having a prescribed bedtime routine helps children fall asleep faster.” Gather Data Once you have selected and limited your topic and formulated a research question or hypothesis, you will be ready to begin the final three tasks in the discovery phase of your research: gathering data, interpreting information, and taking notes. We examine each of these tasks individually; however, they usually occur at the same time. These three tasks constitute the development of the “jigsaw puzzle pieces” that you will eventually put together to form a clear picture of your research topic and to answer your research question or determine if your hypothesis is correct. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 35 7/7/10 2:04 PM The word data refers to factual or numerical information, and gathering data involves finding facts and statistical information related to your research question or hypothesis. When you gather data, you will do so by exploring sources in the Ashford Online Library, on the Internet, or at your local library. We will discuss types of research sources and provide more detail about gathering research information and data in Chapters 4 and 5. However, your best sources of this information will be material you find in the Ashford Online Library databases and at your local library. The first step in gathering data is to obtain some background information about your topic. Background sources are reference materials, and they cannot be used as sources for your research paper. However, they will help you learn more about the topic and the specific aspects of the topic you have chosen to research. They will often contain references and other source citations that can lead you to other research that is suitable for your college research papers. You might think of these background sources as providing you with a foundation of knowledge about your subject. As you browse these background sources, record any references mentioned in these background sources and any suggestions for further avenues of research. Here are some useful background sources to review: Ashford Online Library • Credo Reference: a collection of reference eBooks covering major subject areas • Mergent Online: business and financial information on global, publicly listed companies • Reference USA: information on business and consumer research • World Book Online encyclopedias and reference sources Internet Sources • Wikipedia: online user-generated and user-edited encyclopedia • About.com: An online community of people, called “Guides” who write articles about specific subjects for posting on the Web site • Blogs: A contraction of “web log,” range from ramblings by individuals in personal diaries to commentary by journalists and writers on topics in the news or information about specific subjects such as fashion, education, music, and legal issues; may be useful to learn more about current issues in a particular field Local Libraries • Encyclopedias: usually present broad overviews on a wide range of topics • Almanacs: provide factual and statistical information • Monographs: short books on a specific topic • Dictionaries: to clarify the meanings of technical terms After you have obtained background information from some of the above sources, you may have found some references in these background sources to begin exploring, and you are ready to begin your search for sources that are acceptable for your research paper. In Chapters 4 and 5, we explore types of sources and how to evaluate them to determine if they are acceptable and appropriate. However, after you develop your research topic, you should begin immediately to conduct preliminary research and begin to gather information about your topic. Remember to record the following information about any sources you find that you think you might possibly use in your paper. Recording this information will ensure that you can locate the information again later when you review your sources and integrate information for the research paper: Source Information to Record • The search term or keywords you used to find the source. • Where you found the source—for example, in the ProQuest databases in the Ashford Online Library, on Google, or in the education section of your local library. • The author, date, title of the article (or copyright of the Web page), publication name, publisher, and place of publication (if shown). On the Internet, you may have to go to the home page of the organization that published the article to find some of this information. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 36 7/7/10 2:04 PM • • The page numbers of the complete article. The Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for an online source, such as the “address” of a Web page, or the Digital Object Identifier (DOI®). The DOI® provides current information about where specific pieces of information can be found on the Internet, and it can now be found on many articles on the Internet and in the Ashford Online Library databases. Click this link, http://www.doi.org/, to learn more information about the DOI® System. Try to find information that represents different viewpoints on the issue you are studying. If you have a particular point of view on the topic, do not simply gather information that supports your point of view. Deliberately seek out information on other sides of the issue so that you can present a fair and balanced viewpoint of the subject in your paper. Some people like to print source information they think they will use, but it is not necessary. You may do so if you wish; however, research information can be lengthy, and you will have some printing costs associated with this method of gathering data. If you are accurate about recording source information, you should be able to easily find sources again, if you need to refer to them for additional information. Interpret Information and Take Notes As you conduct research and find information that will be useful in your paper, do not simply copy it or just change a few words. Instead, think about what you have read and put the information into your own words, a technique known as paraphrasing. We will discuss paraphrasing in more detail in Chapter 6, and performing it effectively takes practice. However, the key to effective paraphrasing is to read a single paragraph, to think about what the author said in that paragraph, and to try to restate it, in your own words, as though you were telling another person about what you read. In the few instances where you decide to copy a quotation, be sure to use quotation marks before and after the copied material in your notes and transcribe the quotation word for word, exactly as it appears in the source. Make certain to spell words correctly and to punctuate exactly as the author did in the original version. Also record the page number and the paragraph number in the sources where you obtained this quotation. You will be required to list this page number as part of your in-text citation in the final paper. If the source where you found this information does not have page numbers, count the paragraphs in the document and record the paragraph number where you found the material you are quoting. You can use a paragraph number in place of a page number in your in-text citation of the source. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 37 © Hemera/thinkstock In some instances, you will find a quotation in which the author makes an important point or says it better than you can say it yourself, and you may want to use the exact words of the author rather than your own words. However, you should limit the number of quotations in a research paper, so force yourself to practice paraphrasing whenever possible. You will save yourself a great deal of time and effort if you do this paraphrasing now, when you first read the source, rather than copying information and trying to paraphrase it later when you compile your sources and integrate your research material. Paraphrasing in the discovery phase of your research will also prevent you from accidentally using the words of others without quotation marks, an error that can result in your being guilty of plagiarism, a serious academic offense. When you are using sources, be sure to paraphrase instead of copying. 7/7/10 2:04 PM When you take notes—whether you keep your notes in a notebook, on a sheet of tablet paper, or on separate note cards—try to record only one idea at a time, usually paraphrased, along with the source material for that idea, which we discuss below. If you have a particularly useful source that provides you with a great deal of useful information on your topic, draw a line on your notebook or tablet paper to separate ideas from one another or use a separate index card for each idea. You may use these ideas later in different sections of your research paper when you integrate information. Many researchers like to give each idea a short title to remind them what each idea is about. They might label the content idea by giving it a title such as “background on child development” or “list of bedtime rituals.” Continue to take notes until you feel you have sufficient information to discuss your topic, to answer your research question or to determine if your hypothesis is correct, and to draw some conclusions from the research you have conducted. At this point in the research process, do not worry about how you will arrange all the information you gather. Simply attempt to gather data that will allow you to more clearly understand your limited topic and to draw conclusions from your research. Record Sources Whether you paraphrase material from your sources or use quotations, you must always document the source of the information in your final paper. So, when you take notes, be sure you record two types of information: (1) the content information and data itself that we discussed in the previous section, “Interpret Information and Take Notes,” and (2) information about the source of that information and data. Ensure that your source information includes all the information shown above in “Source Information to Record.” You might put both the content and the full source information on the same page of your research journal or on the same index card. However, this is generally not the best method of recording because, if you use three or four ideas from the same source, you will have to repeat all the source information for every idea. Also, when you integrate your sources in the third phase of the research process, you may not use all the content or data you obtained from a source in the same place in your final paper. For instance, you might use a couple of sentences in one section of the paper and some statistics or other content or data in a much later section of the paper. Therefore, some researchers use a separate sheet of paper or a different colored index card to record the full source information, one time, in proper APA format. Then, to make sure they can match the content with the source, they write the author’s last name or the title of the source in the upper left or right corner of the paper or index card that contains the content information. APA also requires you to include a page number or a paragraph number if you use a direct quote (the actual words of a source). So, with direct quotes, in addition to enclosing the content of the quoted material in quotation marks, also remember to put the page number of any source or count the paragraphs in the article and record the paragraph number. Visit the Ashford Writing Center to review a helpful PowerPoint presentation that covers Ashford University Student Writing Standards and information about plagiarism. Make sure to record source information for every piece of content information you record. The most efficient way to record source information is to locate the APA models for in-text citations and references in the Ashford Writing Center. When you find a source that provides you with content information, immediately find the model that most closely resembles the type of source you have and record your in-text and reference source information in proper APA style. If you do so, you will save yourself hours of work later when you prepare the citations and the reference list for your final research paper. The Assessment Phase The assessment phase of the research process is reached when you think you have enough information to answer your research question or test your hypothesis or when your research calendar says it is time to move on. Remember that research can go on indefinitely, and you must guard against becoming too wrapped up in the discovery phase and not allowing sufficient time for the other two phases of the process. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 38 7/7/10 2:04 PM The assessment phase is the point in the research process at which you will examine all the pieces and begin to form the final picture in your “jigsaw puzzle.” In other words, you will scrutinize the data you have gathered, interpreted, and recorded; analyze and evaluate it; develop inferences or logical judgments; and form conclusions. We discuss how to analyze and evaluate research sources in more detail in Chapters 4 and 5. However, at this point, let us briefly look at the tasks in the assessment phase and discuss how they are different from one another. Review Materials When you review your research materials, you reread the information you have gathered and recorded in your research journal, written on content index cards, and/or printed. After you read each piece of information, think about how this information might fit into your final research paper. Is it a definition of terms? Good background information you might use in the introduction of your paper? Evidence you might present in the body of your research paper? A summary of research others have conducted? Information that might fit into the conclusion of your paper? Begin to sort your content information into groups according to the preliminary decisions you have made about how you might use the information. If you have recorded only one idea on each page of paper or index card, it will be easier to sort and group the content as you read it. You should also consider adding a note at the top of each piece of information as a reminder of where the information might fit in the final research paper. When you have finished reviewing all the research content you have, you might be able to see from the size of the groups you have formed whether some areas of the paper will require additional research. If so, you will have to find a way to create more time in your schedule because it is imperative that you stay on track and begin the tasks of analyzing and evaluating the information you have so far. Analyze Information When you analyze information, you study it in detail by breaking it down into its component parts. For example, perhaps you have some statistical data on children of certain ages and the number of bedtime rituals they engage in. You may want to separate this information into groups based on the age of the children studied or a range of ages, to make the data easier to discuss or for readers to understand. This task requires reviewing the information you have collected, this time group by group, to see if it needs any further subdivision. When you analyze information, you may find that you have conflicting or contradictory information. You might want to go back and read your sources again carefully to ensure that you have accurately interpreted the research methodology and results or have not made an error in recording the data. If you feel you have interpreted the source information correctly, you may want to conduct additional research to resolve any apparent discrepancies or make a note to report this conflicting information in your research paper. Evaluate Information and Evidence When you evaluate information, you examine it and judge the meaning, quality, importance, or value of that information. The evaluation task can often be accomplished at the same time you are analyzing information; however, as you can see, the tasks are very different. To evaluate information, you must apply the criteria we discuss in the section of Chapter 5 titled “Evaluating Information and Evidence.” Your goal in this evaluation is to ensure that you have information that is sufficient, credible, relevant, valid, and reliable so that you can form accurate conclusions from the data. Form Conclusions When you began the research process, you developed a research question or formulated a hypothesis to guide your research. In your final research paper, you will be required to form a conclusion, which consists soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 39 7/7/10 2:04 PM of answering the research question or stating whether your hypothesis was correct or incorrect. Your conclusion will be the one that is best supported by the evidence you found in your research. In your paper, you must also support your conclusion by presenting the research results and the supporting evidence. At this point in the research process, begin to draft the conclusion for your paper and include the information and evidence you have to support this conclusion. Remember that, to some degree, the conclusion you reach may be only a partial one, or it may be inconclusive in some way. If you have conscientiously conducted your research, there is no shame in not being able to answer your research question completely or being incorrect in your hypothesis. Remember that the goal of research is not to prove yourself right, but to find the truth about your topic. The Integration Phase The final phase of the research process, the integration phase, is the point at which you “put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together” and reveal the picture formed by the information, data, and evidence you found in your research. In many ways, this final phase bears some similarity to the process for writing essays and other types of college papers. In this phase of the research process, you must plan your research paper, create a first draft, revise and edit that draft, proofread and format your paper, and document your sources. In other ways, however, it is very different from an essay. You have a great deal of information, at this point, that you must blend in a meaningful way. You must also make sure you have enough information to form some conclusions and to support those conclusions with evidence you have found in research sources. A research paper is more of an organizational task than a creative one, and creating the final paper requires integrating and synthesizing the information you discovered and assessed. (We discuss the integration phase of the research process, the development of the research paper itself, and the documentation of sources in more detail in Chapter 6.) 3.4 Summary This chapter outlines the formal process required to develop a college research paper. Time management is critical to the success of a research project, and three strategies can help you manage your time more effectively: (1) Make sure you have a research calendar that provides scheduled time for the entire research process, (2) make sure you have no days without progress, and (3) make good use of all the wait time in your daily activities to work on your research assignment. A research paper can be developed in three phases: the discovery phase, the assessment phase, and the integration phase. Each phase has several different tasks that must be completed. However, at times these phases will overlap, as will the tasks themselves within each phase. You may find yourself moving back and forth between and within the three phases before you complete the entire process. Getting organized at the beginning of the research process and staying on track throughout the process will ensure your success in producing an effective final research paper and result in much less stress when the paper is due. Remember that this chapter merely outlined the process you will follow. More details about how to perform the tasks in this process will be provided in later chapters. soL82373_03_c03_p027-040.indd 40 7/7/10 2:04 PM ...
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