How To Research for Writing & Blogging: 10 Tips To Ease Your Fear
Research for writing and blogging can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are not given a topic, then pick one that you are passionate about and will be useful for your long-term personal or professional goals. For example, when I started graduate school, my advisor told me to pick a dissertation topic early in my studies, write my course articles on that topic, and use them later as chapters for my dissertation. That advice saved me over a year’s worth of research time.
Once you have your topic, organize your research from the start, so you can find it easily again. Then you can reuse and take ideas from it for different projects or assignments in the future.
I’m not going to lie: Becoming a good researcher takes time, hard work, patience, and practice. Remember this: YES YOU CAN DO RESEARCH! Here are 9 tips to make researching easier:
1. DOCUMENT YOUR SOURCES OR REFERENCES FROM THE START
Write down the information about where you found the research RIGHT AWAY! Keep a References list always going: Author, title of article, date of publication, place of publication (if book), publisher (if book), and url if from the internet.
2. DOWNLOAD PDF COPIES IF POSSIBLE
Any time you can, download a PDF (Portable Document Format or full copy) of an article and save it. You can read the article on your phone or computer without Internet. That means you can read when you’re waiting in your car or anywhere, anytime.
3. DETERMINE HOW MANY SOURCES (REFERENCES) YOU NEED
Look in the directions or grading criteria/rubric to see how many sources you need
Use at least one source for every major point you make (you can use the same source more than once)
4. SEARCH FOR EVERYTHING YOU CAN ABOUT THE TOPIC
Find topic and key words by using databases such as CREDO and Academic Search Complete (EBSCO Host), Google, Google Alerts, and Google Scholar.
Check your school or work library to see what academic databased are available. Wikipedia can be used for you as an overview of your topic but is not a scholarly source; do not use it as a reference.
Use the following databases if possible:
Use your school’s or work’s databases for credible sources, for research essay writing
Search the CREDO database, if available, for good overviews about your topic
Use the Mind Map found in CREDO to find sub-topics and key search terms to find more about the topic
Look up the references noted in the CREDO entries as well as other search terms in them for relevant references
ACADEMIC SEARCH COMPLETE (EBSCO HOST)
Look in Academic Search Complete (EBSCO Host) for good articles on a wide range of topics
Use Google to find overview articles about your topic
Read reputable newspapers and magazines that use research studies and credible sources
Go to the hyperlinked primary sources in the articles and use them as your sources, finding the material in the original source
Set Google alerts for your topic.
Enter your topic in the search bar “Create an alert about….”
Go to Google Scholar
Enter your topic to to see if you can get a PDF to save or if you have access to the article through your University’s database
Note the “Cited by” number of users at the bottom of the entry; the higher the article, the more useful the article
Search the references at the bottom of useful articles for additional sources; one excellent article with many references can fuel your research
Use Wikipedia to get an overview of a topic: NEVER USE IT AS AN ACADEMIC SOURCE. Anyone can write a “wiki” entry, so it may not be credible.
5. ORGANIZE RESEARCH AS YOU DO IT
Add a references page at the end of your essay document, and as you start researching add all references there. Don’t worry about formatting but TAKE DOWN WHAT YOU CAN FIND: Author’s name, title of article/book, date of publication, name of organization, place of publication, internet url.
Search the top and bottom of a website or “About Us” or FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to find a publication date; write n.d. (no date) if you can’t find one
Organize and document your research as you do it, tracking where you got your information to avoid plagiarism.
Email yourself articles from databases that allow emailing, select type of citation that you need (APA, MLA, etc.), and send it to yourself in a PDF to yourself, for times you don’t have internet access.
Devise a system of emailing yourself articles with informative subject headings. For example, if taking a class, put in the email subject heading abbreviated class name, several words from the title, the article’s main point, or keywords to ensure that you can find it easily.
Consider creating an email account just for research; go to gmail.com [put proper url here] to create a free account (gmail allows multiple free accounts)
Use a note taking system to research your essay’s main points (note taking section is below).
6. READ EVERYTHING YOU CAN ABOUT YOUR TOPIC
Read a full study rather than only the abstract; also read the introduction, results, and discussion sections, which are all helpful.
Know the topic well before you begin to write, because that knowledge strengthens your self-confidence, which aids your writing.
7. TAKE NOTES
There are many ways to take research notes, depending on your personal style. Some examples are the Cornell Method, Outlining, Mind Mapping, Charting, and the Sentence Method.
A wonderful resource to find more about these is “How to Take Notes in College” by Eliabeth Lundin.
For example, I am a “bullet point” note taker. Before I read a research article, I create a document and format it to bullet points. While reading the article, I take each down each note as a bullet point, as a way to separate the ideas. When I’m done with my bulleted list, I organize it into topics and see what the major ideas are, so I can rearrange them.
After creating and organizing my lists, I have the research to support my main points. I also take down the references information about the articles in case I use all or some of them.
8. WRITE A WORKING THESIS
Start with a working thesis: Include a topic, claim, and reasons.
Change your thesis as needed, while you research.
Realize that the more you learn, the more your thesis could change.
9. GET RESEARCH FOR YOUR MAJOR POINTS BEFORE WRITING
Find enough research for each major point before you write.
Remember that the more you know, the more your ideas could change. You shouldn’t waste time writing something with limited information that might change once you research more.
10. DON’T STOP TO RESEARCH WHILE WRITING
Don’t stop writing to research. It takes away from your thinking and writing time.
Put [more research here] in brackets, as a note to yourself, and keep writing.
For example, I am a “bullet point” note-taker. Before I read a research article, I create a document and format it to bullet points. While reading the article, I take each down each note as a bullet point, as a way to separate the ideas. When I’m done with my bulleted list, I organize it into topics and see what the major ideas are, so I can rearrange them.