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Research Help:  Design a Research Strategy

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The steps to your research strategy will depend on how much time you have and the type of project on which you are working. In order to conduct effective research, you need to gather appropriate information for your topic. Consider the following questions to help you determine the best research strategy:

How much time do you have?

If you have limited time, it is advisable to focus your information gathering on articles from journals, magazines, newspapers and on books which are in the library or on the web.

If you have more time to plan your research, you will be able to incorporate a variety of materials on your topic and to obtain resources from other libraries.

On what type of project are you working?

The depth of research will depend on the nature of your project. You may need to consider the guidelines specified by your professor on the length of paper or presentation.

What type of information do you need?

Your approach to the topic will determine the type of resources you will use. For example, some research may involve collecting facts, while other research may include gathering various opinions on an issue or argument. You may also want to consider whether your topic will be enhanced by including primary resources. The following types of resources may serve as a guide:

  • Books
  • Articles
  • Internet resources
  • Book reviews
  • Dissertations
  • Statistical information
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Music scores
  • Sound recordings
  • Internet reference sources
  • Government documents
  • Archives
  • Manuscripts
  • Other?

Do you need primary sources? Secondary sources? Both?

"You need to consider whether your project requires primary or secondary sources and, if you will use both, whether a particular work is a primary or a secondary source in the context of your work. Primary sources are basic materials with little or no annotation or editorial alteration, such as manuscripts, diaries, letters, interviews, and laboratory reports. Secondary sources derive from primary materials and include analysis, interpretation, and commentary on primary materials.

"Depending on the point of view of your research paper, a given source may be either primary or secondary. A research paper on William James, the nineteenth-century philosopher, would treat R.W.B. Lewis's The Jameses: A Family Narrative as a secondary source, whereas a paper on Lewis, a well-known critic and biographer, would treat the same book as a primary source. Your assignment may require you to emphasize either primary or secondary sources or to use a combination of the two." -- (Slade, Carole. Form and style. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., c1997.)

Choose topic | Find background info | Research strategy | Find books | Find articles |
Find reference sources
| Obtain materials not at WUStL | Evaluate sources | Cite sources