Focus Your Research
The library at Baylor University offers a comprehensive guide to Focusing Your Research Paper with a downloadable Topic Table form for your use. We highly recommend visiting the website itself, but here are some of the top tips from this resource:
- What - Start with a board topic and then break it down into smaller sections
- Who - Do you want to focus on; women? teens? children? animals?
- Where - Can this topic be narrowed to a specific geographic location?
- When - Are you going to focus on a set time frame?
- Why - Is there a reason to research this topic? (This section is more subjective and may be developed later in your research)
Once you have answered these question you should have a clear focus for your paper. You may even use your answers to decide where you need to search for relevant sources.
Where to Search
If you're only using a web based search engine you're missing out on a lot of information! The library has access to materials that are not freely available on the web, but are free to you as a student. These resources include academic and trade journals, theses and dissertations, as well as the latest research from the scholarly world. These resources are usually accessed using online databases. Watch the short video below from Yavapari College on why you should use library databases.
Why you should use Library Databases:
How to Search
There are several ways to access the library's online databases and indexes. For more information on the different access points please see the University of Hawaii Manoa Library's Research Tools Guide. This resource outlines the primary ways to access the information in the library. You can also see our tutorial on OneSearch Manoa on the Introduction to the Library page of this guide.
To search the library's online database you will want to try a combination of methods to make sure you have gathered the most relevant and useful information possible. This quick video from Yavapai College will give you an overview of the search process.
Searching Library Databases:
Evaluate Your Sources
Now that you have gathered information from a variety of sources you will need to evaluate the information for currency, fairness, and authority. Cornell University Library's Ten Things to Look For When You Evaluate an Information Source gives a break down of exactly what you need to do to determine is a source should or should not be used in your academic writing. You may also want to consult the table on Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly resources on the Research Basics page on this guide.
Integrate Your Sources
Avoid plagiarism by correctly citing your sources. See the Research Basics page of this guide for tutorials and links to additional sources that will help you avoid plagiarism. By following these steps you are well on the road to becoming information literate.