Today, finding information is as easy as typing a few words into a search engine and clicking on the resulting links. The Internet has information on every subject you can think of, yet not all of what you find will be helpful or the best information for your needs. Here's a few research-savvy tips to get you the right information quickly.
The first step is to figure out what you are searching for. Write out a very brief outline of the areas you want your paper to cover and then think about what information you need and the keywords you could use to find it. For example, a paper on grief counseling in elementary schools would have several keywords to search for. The trick to finding the best range of information is to use every keyword you can think of. You may start with grief counseling, elementary school counseling and grief in children. All good search strings. However, if you don't broaden your search, you are going to miss links that may not have the keywords from your title in them, but still have relevance to your subject. Additional keywords that could be used are bereavement in children, grief therapy, child psychology, children and death in the family, loss of a family member for children. A thesaurus is helpful for giving you new search ideas.
After you have a lengthy list of keywords, you need to know where to use them. Most people start out in a big search engine, like Yahoo! or Google. These can yield thousands of results. You will get a few sources that are useful, but if you are researching a more disciplined subject, such as psychology in our previous example, you need to go to a more academic system. Lexis-Nexis, PsychInfo and Academic Search Premier are all excellent databases filled with reputable journal articles and documented sources.
Now you've complied a stack of journal articles. What do you do with them? The last step is to read each article abstract (the 1 page summary at the beginning of the article) and see if it pertains to your topic. If is does, read the article carefully. Then re-read it, using a highlighter to single out quotes or information you want to include in your article. After deciding what you want to use and what you don't, you need to place your information in your outline in the correct section. Some writers will cut out quotes from the article and paste them into the outline, while others note the quote in the outline about the quote and the article it is from. Both ways work well.
Now that you've got your research done, you can write your paper knowing that you have all the sources you need. Well-researched articles stand out in the crowd and can impact grades and professional recognition, so be through and organized. You have all the skills you need to make your paper a success.