You can make it
complicated or you can make it simple, but pretty much
'Research' boils down to searching for information that
you intend to use for a specific purpose.....and
learning something new while doing so.
You research what shoes
you might want to wear when you ask your two roommates about their
new sneakers (or when you watch old episodes of Sex
and the City to check out what Manolo Blahniks look best
on Carrie Bradshaw's feet), you research whose class
section you should sign up for when you check Ratemyprofessor.com, and you research what
scientists are doing in terms of dye-sensitized solar
cells when you search the American
Chemical Society Journal's database under the keywords
["solar cells" and "dye sensitized"].
In this module you will
briefly learning about the Information Cycle - how
information is created, collected, and retrieved.
You will also learn about formal academic Scholarship,
and how to best plan out your research when conducting
such types of formal scholarship, including composing
your research question, outlining your research
strategy, and beginning then revising your research
strategy based on your preliminary results.
Lastly we will touch on the concept of Boolean Operators
- a mathematical term that is used incessantly in the
library world to best tailor your searches to maximize
your research results while simultaneously minimizing
your research time.
Like so much else in
this world, information is cyclical. New
information is always being produced, formatted,
interpreted, collected, and analyzed.
Understanding this cycle of information will better aid
you in understanding the entire research process.
There are a few basics
when it comes to searching for information:
- Understanding just
exactly what it is that you need and are really
- Knowing the correct
spot to look for this information: YouTube for old
snippets of the Muppet Show; an academic
database such as the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences for finding scholarly journal articles; and
- Understanding where
and from whom your information is coming from. In the case of
peer-reviewed journal articles there shouldn't be
any obvious author bias, but in the case of some
newspapers or other less professionally-neutral
sources, there is sometimes a bias present that
needs to be taken into consideration.
Many college students in
the Humanities rely heavily on secondary sources for
their research, however as a Chemistry student you will
be using mostly primary sources.
Researching something for an academic project means that
you need to truly understand how information is created
as well as the basic steps of both
scholarship and research in order to present your best
possible final project.
Main Entry: schol*ar*ship
Date: circa 1536
1: the character,
qualities, activity, or attainments of a scholar:
2: a fund of knowledge and learning <drawing on the
scholarship of the ancients>
(Taken from Meriam-Webster
As a chemistry scholar
you rely on the work of other chemists and biochemists
(and other scientists in general) to provide background
information, relevant arguments, and information on
their own research that will either help to support or
disprove your thesis. Academic honesty is a
crucial component of all scholarship, and it has long
been a standard practice of academia (and science) to give
credit to others when using their work. Failing to
do so - even by accident - is considered plagiarism.
We'll go into full detail about SU's academic integrity
policy and how to avoid even accidental plagiarism in
understanding the steps required for your research and being
organized will help you to avoid the pitfalls of
accidental plagiarism. Fully documenting your
sources will also make a tremendous difference when it
comes to avoiding plagiarism - in Module 5 we'll
also discuss the various citation management tools (like Zotero and EndNote Web) that SU supports,
that will help you to easily document and organize your
like everything else, is a series of steps. Start
at step one and work your way through systematically
through to the end, and you're guaranteed better results
than if you start in the middle and just kind of
randomly work around from there.
Select your topic
(it seems to be common
sense that this is the first step, but trust me -
you'd be amazed how many people just kind of jump in
the middle, or come to the
Research Help Desk, show us their assignment, and ask
the librarians what they should write about!)
Compose a research question / thesis statement
Outline a basic research strategy
/ revise your basic strategy based on search results
Organize your ideas & sources based on search results*
Begin writing your paper while documenting sources
* While some of these concepts will be mentioned
in further modules, the actual organization of ideas and
the proper way to go about writing your paper is best
covered by the professionals at the
Writing Center, and not by the librarians at
Select Your Topic &
Compose A Research Question
begin at the beginning with steps number 1 and 2: Select Your
Topic & Compose A Research Question.
start the same way - they begin with a broad concept
that they're interested in - say, Organometallics - and
then they get more specific from there. Here are
some examples of how you can move from a broad concept
to a more narrow topic to finally an actual research
question/thesis statement about which you can write a
||Metalorganic compounds and their
||Enzyme-catalyzed reactions in proteins.
|Actual Research Question
metal-oranic complexes could be used for the
enentioseltive epoxidation of alkenes?
the mechanism for the oxygen activation in
methods are known for the total synthesis of
never want to get too specific on your topic, but
likewise you never want to be too general. While
a general topic will certainly get you a large number of search
results, you’ll be overwhelmed by all of them and won’t know where to
start or how to pick just one article from the thousands
crowded in front of you. If you get too specific
in your topic,
you'll be left with just two or three articles to chose from and
will be boxed into a corner with no real room to work or
Common problems with research questions are: that the question you are asking is too broad
all the applications and uses of benzene?); too narrow
(What is the one way that a protein can be catalyzed at
32.976 degrees F under the conditions of a sunny day by a
tall, brown-haired chemist named Bob?); or that the
be strictly answered by research (Is it morally ethical for a
chemist to work for a large oil company helping to
refine extracting processes, given the damage that
oil has caused in third-world countries?), and as such
you need to chose accordingly and carefully.
you have your research question properly selected and suitably
refined, it is time to start researching the background
information that needs to follow. As you search for
journal articles on your topic, the information that you
find should help you to further refine your original research
question. Background information will help you to
get a better grasp of your topic, will let you know what
are the key/controversial issues in your research topic,
and will introduce you (potentially for the first time)
to the specialized language that is unique to your
discipline. In order to gather this
background information, you'll need to first come up
with a basic search strategy for how you are going to
find, then sort through, all of this information
without being overwhelmed or led down the wrong path.
One of the
best things that you can do to help you get started is
to write your research topic as a question. After
you've turned your topic into a question, re-write that
question as a statement. This will make it nicely
clear to you what the main concepts of your research
topic really are, and therefore what your keywords
down your topic:
Protein hydrolysates compared to whole proteins and
amino acids in relation to skeletal muscle protein
Write down your research question:
Are protein hydrolysates superior to whole proteins
and free amino acids when examining the anabolism of
skeletal muscle protein?
Write down your research question as a statement:
hydrolysates are superior to whole proteins
and free amino acids in terms of skeletal muscle
List your statement keywords:
"protein hydrolysates" / "whole proteins"
amino acids" / "skeletal muscle proteins"
Once you have your keywords
set, begin plugging them in to some of the databases
that we have access to at Blackwell Library (a list of
recommended chemical-information databases can be found
in Module 3), using a variety of the search
strategies listed below.
/ Revise Your Strategy Based On Results
begin your research, it's important to understand the
various methods/concepts you can use to search with.
Keyword searching is
the most basic form of searching that pretty much
everyone does whenever they look for something online.
A keyword search typically scans through the full-text
of each journal article, so the search results from
keyword searches are both extremely thorough and
all-encompassing. A standard keyword search would
be to search on protein + hydrolysates.
Phrase searching is
a more refined way to get narrower search results, one
that lets you focus on a more complicated topic in
exactly the way that you want. Phrase searching is
exactly what it sounds like - instead of searching for
protein + hydrolysates you do a search on the phrase
"protein hydrolysates" with the phrase bracketed by
technique to use when doing any kind of searching -
keyword or phrase - is to use
Boolean Operators to make sure that you get
exactly what you want and that you leave out what you
don't. Boolean Operators is a
fancy (mathematical) way of saying "use the words and,
or, not when doing a search."
of a simple phrase and keyword search with three
keywords connected by Boolean
Operators would be as follows:
"protein hydrolysates" AND
"whole proteins" AND anabolism
way to understand Boolean Operators is to
"see" how they work. Click on the following link to see
a short YouTube video of Boolean searching in action.
Boolean Operators Video
your research that just like in life, balance is key.
Too much (too broad a topic) or too little (too narrow a
topic) is never a good thing, and striking a balance is
crucial to end up with something that you can work with.