You already know you have a paper due at the end of the semester, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until after spring break to start working on it. Here are some top tips on how to research effectively when writing term papers.
- Start early: You don’t need to read every single source thoroughly at this point, but you need to get started early enough that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to find good sources. Starting early also lets you know if your topic is valid–if you can’t find enough research to support your argument, you’ll need to re-think your argument. Further, if you have access to a college or university library, you may need to use ILL (Interlibrary Loan) for a book or article that your library doesn’t have in the system, and those can take weeks to go through.
- Mix-up your keyword search: Students often get frustrated because their keyword search doesn’t yield good results, but then they don’t experiment with other keyword combinations. Use keyboard shortcuts to yield more results. For instance, in EBSCO Host, Wom*n will give you results for both “women” and “woman,” with the asterisk standing in as sort of wild card. This trick will work with any word that can have multiple endings. Talk to a librarian for more shortcuts like these to help you with your search.
- Use your library’s database system: Speaking of EBSCO Host, use your library’s database system for finding scholarly articles. Don’t rely on Google for your papers. If you don’t know what constitutes as a scholarly source, ask your instructor. As a general rule of thumb, a scholarly source is any printed source that includes a bibliography as a reference and is written by a reputable scholar in the field. Articles should be peer-reviewed, meaning they’ve gone through a rigid process of fact checking and editing before being published in a scholarly article. Blog posts, websites (including and especially Wikipedia), magazines, tradeback books, and newspapers are all examples of sources that are not academic. Unless your prof states otherwise, use scholarly/academic sources.
- Don’t limit yourself to “full-text only” articles: And we’re back at the start again with the top tip of starting early. Limiting yourself to only reading articles that are available in a full-text format limits the amount of knowledge and research that you can use. Start now so that you can get articles from other libraries around the country using Interlibrary Loan. If you’re in a bind and the due date is looming, then sure, search for full-text sources. But now while you have time, look at books that are on the shelves as well as articles that you can get from another location. You will end up with a more thoroughly researched essay, and your instructor will recognize that you put forth a good effort in finding useful research to support your essay. (Pro tip: instructors can tell when students are only using the first two sources that popped up on a Google search.)
What are you waiting for? Start searching for sources now so that your term paper will be well-researched and well written. For more information on how to be successful during the research process, contact us today.