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POSC 3365 (Dr. Commissiong): Introduction to Western Political Thought

What is Research?

  • Research is investigation and examination.
  •  
  • We do research every day: ask the time, look for an e-mail address, decide which vehicle to buy.
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  • Getting started can cause anxiety, but that feeling is temporary.
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  • Requires time and flexibility as you learn throughout the process.
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  • Often an experimental, trial-and-error process. Information from one step may require redoing an earlier step.
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  • Research becomes easier with practice.

The Research Process

  1. Receive a research assignment: A paper or presentation is assigned, or a personal decision is required.
    Examples:
    Write a paper that's due in one month.
    OR, Present a speech in class one week from today.
  2. Select a topic: May be assigned in broad terms, or may be a personal interest.
    Examples
    Write about violence in the media.
    OR, Speak about what happened the day you were born.
  3. Explore the facets of topic/narrow the focus: Ask basic background questions or specific parts of the overall topic. Often requires basic information collection and evaluation.
    Examples
    Collect information on television, movies, video games, anime cartoons, rap music, etc.
    OR, Collect information on world events, state festivals, local politics, celebrity births and deaths, family occurrences, etc.
  4. State a question: This is your thesis, the question that you will answer, and it defines the limits of your problem.
    Examples
    Does the image of women in rap music lead to more date rape?
    OR, What was the headline article in the New York Times on April 1, 1984, and where can I find other information about that event?
  5. Decide on the types of sources: Different kinds of questions will require different types of information sources.
    Examples
    General databases such as Academic Search Complete contain current research from hundreds of scholarly and general publications on causes of violence and correlations with movies watched or music preferences.
    OR, National newspapers and news magazines covered current events, and parents or grandparents may be interviewed.
  6. Collect and evaluate information: Gather data to answer your specific question or thesis. This is often thought of as "research". Too much or too little available information may mean the question has to be restated.
    Examples
    Academic Search Complete contains current research from hundreds of scholarly and general publications on causes of violence and correlations with movies watched or music preferences.
    OR, Print copies of the front page of the New York Times for April 1, 1984, and the cover stories for that week from Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report.
  7. Is the question answered? You may need additional information, or you may need to restate the question, if not enough information is available.
    Examples
    One source is available, but there are 5 other sources that discuss rap music and violence against women. Restate the question as Does the image of women in rap music cause more violence against women?
    OR, You have five articles discussing the events of your birthday. Start practicing your speech.
  8. Make the decision/write the report/prepare the presentation.
    Examples
    Your paper on rap music is turned in and you get an A.
    OR, Your speech wins applause from your classmates.

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