Starting Your Research
What do you know?
A great first place to start is to take an inventory of what you know about the topic. You can also make a list of all related subjects or terms. It's a good diea at this point to ask yourself where your knowledge came from. Is it an "old wives' tale" or what you consider to be common knowledge? You'd be surprised how often you will find out that what we often call "common knowledge" isn't accurate at all, especially with current events or controversial topics. This is a good time in your research to double-check the facts.
Gather background information/Define key terms
A great place to start for this is Credo Reference. This is a great place to get history, background, definitions, and other information regarding progression, testing, and current research. This is also where you can dispel myths and factcheck what you already know. You can also search for credible websites (see below), the Gale Virtual Reference Library, or the Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia.
One place you can go in order to choose a topic or narrow a topic is Opposing Viewpoints in Context. While a lot of content in this database is not scholarly, it does feature viewpoint essays that can help you determine what you want to research and help you generate a list of search terms.
Make a list of relavent search terms and related terms and concepts.
This list will help you to do comprehensive database searches, and will help you be able to explain key concepts related to the topic you are researching.
For example, if my topic was "test scores", my list of terms might be:
- educational tests and/or measurements
- test scoring
- achievement tests
- academic achievement
- educational evaluation
...and so on. Databases often have their own controlled vocabulary, and it isn't always what you would choose. If you do a search and get zero results, think of other ways to express what you want to know.
Now you are ready to head to the databases to find a peer-reviewed research article.