Here's a roundup of my best blog posts on Research Methods. I love learning and teaching these tips to make people into better scholars and writers.
One of the best ways to improve your research methods or academic performance is to discover your learning styles. Some people favor a particular way of learning, while others find that a blend of techniques work best for them. I've also found that learning styles can change over time; what may have worked with you while you were in school, for example, may shift when you are learning in a professional environment.
When you're conducting research online, it may be difficult to determine if a website contains credible information. Almost anyone can publish anything online, which provides a wealth of information for scholars and students. However, the ease of publication may promote information which is false, faulty, or misleading.
An abstract is a summary of the work reported in a paper. It allows readers to quickly identify articles of interest to them, without having to read the whole document. Together with the title, the abstract is also used by databases to allow articles to be searched easily.
Plagiarism is the practice of falsely representing as one’s own any language, thoughts, ideas, designs, or expression in a paper, exam, or other work. In short, it means taking someone’s else’s words, ideas, or work and passing them off as yours. There are severe consequences for plagiarism in your academic, work, and personal lives.
When you are researching for a paper, you should take notes, not only to retain the information you are seeking but also to guide the next steps in your research strategy. I advise my students to take notes, either by putting pen to paper or by using programs like Mendeley which allow you to mark and save articles. Reading for research is never passive; it should be an active exchange in which you respond to and interrogate the text.
When I teach my Research Methods students, I often ask them to interrogate their primary sources. When you’re working with documents—whether manuscripts from the 17th century or blog posts that were published minutes ago—you need to analyze them like detectives. Nothing should be taken at face value. Often, this means that a document may need to be read several times to unravel its meaning.
Photographs contain a wealth of information, but you need to build your visual literacy to extract clues. The social history context that photographs provide is especially important for groups who have historically not been represented in text-based archival collections, such as women or people of color. I've gathered some of the techniques I use when conducting historical analysis of photographs.
There are a variety of reading methods that can help you take in more information, make your efforts more efficient, and save time. A professor in graduate school once told me that students are never expected to complete all the readings; instead, they learn how to prioritize their reading so that they can get the essence of the texts.
Note-taking for classes, meetings, studying, or research is a skill you develop over time. Use any note-taking style that works best for you. Experience with different formats, combine them, or improvise to create your style.
I am by no means brilliant. But I am smart enough, work hard, and have developed habits that achieve the best results for me. I want to share some tips to help you get better grades in less time and with less stress and effort.
Using an archives can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time. When I teach my students how to visit archives, I highlight nine vital questions to ask themselves to make their time in an archives the most productive and fulfilling it can be.
To produce sound historical research, we need reliable primary sources. Records created at the same time as an event, or as close as possible to it, usually have a greater chance of being accurate than records created years later, especially by someone without firsthand knowledge of the event. When you are conducting research, you want to corroborate the contents of the document you are working with with information from other sources that have been proven to be legitimate
Conducting archival research can be challenging. Unlike libraries, which have assets with consistent information, archives preserve and provide access to unique materials.
Trained as an archivist, I also work as a researcher, so I have a 360-degree perspective on archives. In a graduate-level course on research methods I teach, I offer the following suggestions to my students.
Primary sources serve as evidence for the interpretation of past events. Analyzing primary sources will help you to understand how an argument has been constructed and to adopt a more critical stance towards the books and articles that you encounter.
Primary sources are the raw materials of history. They are documents and objects that were created during the event being studied or created later by the participant of an event, reflecting their viewpoint.
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