Doing Library Research for Your Scientific Paper
Before you can write your scientific research paper, you need to do these things:
Understanding Your Assignment
you begin, you should understand your assignment.
- Do you have an assigned
topic, or can you choose your own?
- What kind of paper will you be
writing for this assignment? Is is a term paper in which you gather other's research
to compare, contrast, and synthesize the findings? Or is it a research paper,
or lab report, in which you report on your original research? If it is the latter,
you'll need to be familiar with the particular format the paper or report will
follow. See The Portland State University Writing Center's Guide
to Writing in Biology for a good overview on writing this type of paper. Purdue's Online Writing Lab also has an excellent guide to writing scientific research reports.
- How long will your paper need to be?
- What kinds of information
sources should you use?
- How many references must you use?
- Which citation style
will you need to use in your paper?
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Finding a Topic
assignment may ask you to write on a given topic, or choose one of your own.
you can choose your own topic and you donít know what to write about, there are
a few things you can do to help find a topic:
- Browse through news
headlines (including online science news like the AP Newswire Science
Headlines at Yahoo or Discovery Channel
News Briefs) and magazines for something that catches your interest.
- Keep an eye out for possible topics while watching TV or listening to news
reports on the radio.
- Jot down a note anytime you find yourself asking,
"I wonder why/what/how__________" in your class or while studying.
through specialized encyclopedias for your discipline for possible ideas.
- Brainstorm. Start with a blank sheet of paper. Write a word or phrase down
related to your discipline. Around this term, write down related ideas, focusing
on facts and questions. Do the same from each of those terms. Don't edit as you
go - just write down what comes to mind. Draw lines between terms if you like.
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Whether or not you are given a topic or
choose your own, youíll need to have a basic understanding of your subject. In
the Introduction section of your paper you will draw on this basic knowledge and
make references to previous research made on the topic. Also, by paying special
attention to questions raised by previous research, you may find it easy to come
up with a hypothesis to test.
- Check general and specialized encyclopedias.
- Use the Hawaii Voyager Catalog to find books, videos, pamphlets, and other materials on your topic. Scan the books on the shelves, looking
at the tables of contents of each. Skim interesting chapters for relevant sections.
- Use EBSCO's Academic Search Premier and other computerized indexes to periodicals to find journal
articles on you subject. Read the abstracts of these articles.
Internet Directories and Search
Engines like Google and Yahoo to find information on the Internet on your topic.
Look especially for FAQs, or Frequently Asked Questions files on your subject.
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Developing Your Hypothesis
doing your background library research it is likely you will begin developing
a hypotheses for your project. As you read through the available material, keep
your tentative hypothesis in mind while asking yourself:
- What question
will I attempt to answer in my paper on this topic?
- Is there enough
supporting material available? Do I have enough information to successfully support
the basis of my hypothesis? If not, can I broaden the scope of the topic?
- Is there too much material available? Or is the scope of my hypothesis too
broad to realistically test? If so, is there a narrow aspect of the subject I
can focus on?
- Is the information Iím finding relevant? Does it meet
my standards for quality and trustworthiness? Consider such things as the authorís
point of view, the expertise of the author, the date of publication, the intended
audience, and the accuracy of the information.
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Follow-up Library Research
designing and conducting your empirical research, you may find it useful to do
further library research to help you analyze your data or to supplement the Introduction
and Discussion areas of your paper. Three useful techniques in finding additional
- Look at the works cited (bibliographies) in the most
relevant articles and books youíve found. Are there articles or books listed that
could be of use for your project?
- Find out if the authors of those
relevant articles have published other research on your topic.
a librarian for assistance. Their job is to help you track down information!
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