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How to Research an Essay

How to Research an Essay

Research is your opportunity to amass a store of critical resources with which to construct your essay. Logically speaking, the more resources you have to draw from, the richer the sum of their use. Simply put, the more you know, the more you can say. A first-rate essay invariably bears the imprint of quality research. This involves depth as well as breadth. Wide reading allows for a broad view of a topic and lets one locate the many related critical strands, enabling a comprehensive awareness of a subject’s overall academic significance. The wider one’s reading is the more likely one will be to offer fresh insight. However, this broad insight must be tempered with depth otherwise your essay will be wide-reaching but cursory. Pinpoint key areas of discussion. Pay particular attention to these areas, scrutinise their finer points and look for inconsistencies and/or continuities. In so doing, you will be able to offer more penetrating analyses. The most important factor in your research is to arrive at a good balance between the breadth of reading and the focus you give certain topics. A helpful tip is to begin by making a list that places key topics in a hierarchy of importance. This will provide a guide for which areas to spend the most time on.

Make Notes

Making notes is a vital part of the research process, one which can easily be mishandled. One wants to keep one’s notes clear, concise, and to the point. Wherever you see a phrase, fact, or figure that explains something particularly well, be sure to note it down. However, be discriminate with what you record. Avoid endless pages of rambling thought; this will only make the notes confusing later on. Rather, try to distil the absolute essence of an article, chapter, or lecture into a paragraph of key points. Critical textbooks, readers and primers, often do this at the end of a chapter, where all the most important information is restated in summary terms. Try to do the same with your notes; even dividing and subdividing where necessary. Figure out a system that works for you and stick with it. Such continuity will help maintain order and facilitate speed of reference later on. Keep your notes tidy and neat; this will make them easier to understand and more appealing to pick up. Use a binder. Work with highlighters, page markers, and bookmarks to underscore the most important sections. If you have a solid collection of research notes you will find your essay far easier to compose; because the body of the work is in essence already complete.

Use Journal Articles

The importance of journal articles cannot be overstated. Academic journals are where one finds the most current research and thus the most relevant information. This is particularly the case with evidentiary sciences, where new data are continually changing the nature of the field in substantial ways. Journal articles can be easily accessed via online databases. Such resources usually allow for very detailed search criteria, enabling users to find exactly what they are looking for at the touch of a button. Further, journal articles usually have an “Abstract” at the beginning, which summarises the report’s findings. This is a highly time-effective method of research, obviating the need to trawl through academic texts until you find what you are looking for. Using academic journals ensures that your work is current and has a professional appearance; this is a must if you wish to achieve top grades.

Read Related Academic Texts

Look at other academic texts on the same topic. You will quickly begin to recognise patterns between different works – of agreement and disagreement. Make of a note of any general trends you detect. Every time you read an article, try to ascribe a point of view to the text. For instance, “This author supports . . .” or “This author is against . . .” This will be useful when it comes to composing the final essay. You will be able to cite arguments for and against the point at issue; this demonstrates comprehensive awareness of the contentions at work in the discipline. Also, check the sources employed in such texts. This will likely provide a helpful pointer for other relevant research in the field or perhaps explain why a certain author has arrived at a given point of view. Finally, be sure to plan your research ahead. You need to work to a logical system. This will help you amass relevant research.

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