Using a Research Journal
One of the most efficient and effective ways to improve your research skills is to keep a research journal.
A research journal is useful for two main reasons:
1 – Recording and Refining – Using a research journal gives you the ability to track the terms and
sites you have used for your original searches, thus eliminating and preventing repeats.
This same process also allows you to narrow and refine search terms as you learn more
and more about your topic.
Getting Started
Open a blank word document from the Research Journal Template – this should
ALWAYS be done electronically
Title the document the name of your current research assignment - e.g., Utilitarianism,
Obama Good, Hydrogen Neg
Recording your searches
It is important to record the exact search terms. Search engines have advanced “boolean”
operators that can be used for very specific searching functions.
Always copy and paste the results URL so you can go back to your results page at a later
Search Tips
Start BROAD. You should begin with background information first, and then narrow
your searches. It will be very hard to find specific cards until becoming familiar with the
terms of art used in the literature. TAKE NOTES during this process. They will be useful
later on.
Definitions – sometimes it is also useful to learn how experts in the field define the words
in the resolution. You can also use these
ALWAYS CHECK DATES – for most research assignments in policy anything prior to
this century or even the last 5 years is usually irrelevant. For LD there is not as high a
standard for recency, but the newer the better, thoughts develop more clearly over time.
Google Scholar!!!!! This source is awesome!!! It searches across multiple databases and
journals. It knows when the article you’ve found has been cited by anyone else. Just try
Chase footnotes – if you find a very useful passage or quotation in an article, the
ORIGINAL author will always be referenced in the works cited section. CHASE THAT
ARTICLE, some of the best ways to find sweet cards or just develop an understanding of
the trajectory of thought within a discipline is to trace backwards to the original source.
Access issues - If you ever come across an article that you cannot access please send Martin the FULL CITATION
and a SMALL QUOTE (5 exact words or so) and he can get it for you. It does not matter if they say you have to
pay, I can almost always get the article. If i’m unavailable Nathan and Natalie can also help.