Learning Research Skills

Anatomy of a term paper

Assignment: Conduct the research for a term paper. Do everything except write it. At various stages, students submit:

  1. topic clearly defined
  2. annotated bibliography of useful sources
  3. outline of paper
  4. thesis statement
  5. opening paragraph and summary

Purpose: Focuses on the stages of research and the parts of a paper, rather than on the writing of it.

Research Log

Assignment: Keep a record of library research: methodology, sources consulted, keywords or headings searched, noting both successes and failures. Professors can provide forms, so students understand how to structure their approach.

Purpose: Provides a good introduction to how information is organized in libraries. Encourages students to think about the choices they must make as researchers. Focuses on the importance of terminology. A good follow up would be a class discussion with a librarian about search techniques.

Annotated Bibliography

Assignment: Find a specified number of sources on a topic and write descriptive or evaluative annotations.

Purpose: Sharpens the skills of literature searching and mastering a bibliographic style.

Internet Search

Assignment: Provide a precise statement of the search topic and an outline of the search logic. Run the search on two different search engines. Compare the results from the two searches - was one better than the other, why, how.

Purpose: Teaches the mechanics of searching and teaches students that Internet access is not just one thing. Rather each search engine is different both in what part of the Internet it searches and in how you present your search strategy.

Database Search

Assignment: Provide a precise statement of the search topic, a list of keywords or thesaurus terms (as appropriate), and an outline of search logic. Justify the choice of databases. Carry out the search.

Purpose: Shows the background research necessary for a successful search, and teaches the mechanics of searching.

Compare Internet and Database Searches

Assignment: Provide a precise statement of the search topic. Run the search on the Internet and also on a database. Present some representation of the search results and compare the findings.

Purpose: Demonstrates the differences between these search tools in respect to content and search strategy.

Literature Review

Assignment: Review the literature on a specific topic for a given time period.

Purpose: Reveals the purpose of a literature review, and provides experience doing one.

Review Update

Assignment: Select (or assign) a topic on which a review article was written a number of years ago and update that review.

Purpose: Introduces students to literature reviews, subject indexes and reference sources. Demonstrates the evolution of a particular topic and the scholarly communication surrounding it. Also requires students to analyse, synthesize and integrate the ideas they find.

Poster Session

Assignment: Research a topic and present it as a poster which other students will use to learn about the topic.

Purpose: Gives the opportunity to conduct a search and forces the students to express the important points succinctly.