A large research project can be overwhelming, but there are techniques that you can use to make your project more manageable. You simply need to start with a specific plan, and focus on effective search techniques that take advantage of all available resources. By working smarter rather than harder, you will not only finish your project more quickly, but you will also acquire higher quality information than you would be able to find through hours of unfocused researching. Follow the tips below to increase your efficiency and improve the quality of your work.
Try to Start with Broad Overviews
The best way to understand a topic is to start your research by reading a general overview. This will help you to focus your research question, lead you to valuable sources and give you context for understanding your topic. High school students and students in introductory courses can consider beginning a research project by reading encyclopedia articles. Students doing more advanced or specialized research should look for review articles in appropriate journals. In addition to helping you understand your subject, the resources section of an encyclopedia article or the extensive bibliography of a review article will provide you with quality sources on your informative topics without the need to search for them. This can save you hours of needless work.
If you go to the library or perform a computer search in order to research a large topic, like the American Revolution or genetic theory, you will be quickly overwhelmed. For this reason, you should formulate specific, focused questions to answer. By asking yourself how England’s involvement with other European powers influenced the American Revolution or how imaging techniques contributed to the development of genetic theory, for example, you will be able to focus your research and save yourself time.
Have a Plan
Before you start your research, have a goal in mind, and make a plan for reaching this goal. If you just go poking around the internet or the library, you are unlikely to get much accomplished. Instead of searching blindly, focus on answering the specific questions you have formulated, locating a certain number of resources, getting a broad overview of your topic or some other specific goal. Setting small, achievable goals will make your task less overwhelming and easier to complete.
Many students gather sources by collecting books, articles and lists of bookmarks without reading or even skimming them until the project deadline looms. This creates a time crunch. To avoid this situation, spend time taking notes in a notebook, on note cards or on your computer. As you research, jot down applicable information from your sources, and note where this information is located. By taking notes as you go, you will be better able to gauge how much more research is necessary. You will also make writing your paper, preparing your presentation or completing your project a quicker and simpler undertaking.
Master Google Searches
Google is a search engine with many powerful features that allow you to find what you want quickly. Unfortunately, many students are unaware of these features, so they spend needless hours wading through pages of irrelevant search results. By spending a few minutes on Google’s tips pages, you can learn how to get the most out of internet searching.
Take Advantage of Top Lists
Most university and regional libraries have various subject-specific lists of resources on their web pages. These are well-organized, comprehensive listings of quality sources from each library’s specific collection of databases and e-resources, and they cover a large variety of topics. Rather than spending your time wading through substandard resources, peruse the lists offered by your library, and save yourself some time.
Ask a Librarian for Help
Reference librarians can help you find what you need quickly and teach you research tricks that will help you on your current project in addition to future projects. By asking for help, you can save yourself time and frustration. Even if you cannot go to the physical library, most libraries also offer consultations over the phone, by e-mail or through virtual chat platforms.