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Why Are Research Skills Important?
Research skills are a vital part of the writing process because they enable writers to find information and create an outline for their writing project—whether it’s creative or academic writing. By developing organized and effective research methods, you’ll be able to become knowledgeable in any field that you need to write about.
6 Tips for Improving Your Researching Skills
Here are a few research practices and tips to help you hone your research and writing skills:
- Start broad, then dive into the specifics. Researching is a big task, so it can be overwhelming to know where to start—there’s nothing wrong with a basic internet search to get you started. Online resources like Google and Wikipedia, while not always accurate, are a great way to orient yourself in a topic, since they usually give a basic overview with a brief history and any key points.
- Learn how to recognize a quality source. Not every source is reliable, so it’s crucial that you can recognize the good sources from the not-so-good ones. To determine a reliable source, you’ll need to use your analytical skills and critical thinking, and ask yourself the following questions: Does this source agree with other sources I have found? Is the author an expert in the field? Does the author’s point of view have a conflict of interest regarding this topic?
- Verify information from several sources. The internet is a big place, and, for the most part, anyone can say whatever they want online—many websites don’t evaluate their content for factual accuracy. This means that there are plenty of unreliable resources out there, and even many that are outright incorrect. The best way to combat this is to make sure that whatever you find in your research, several different sources can verify that it is true. Rather than going off of one webpage, make sure that at least two other places say something similar.
- Be open to surprising answers. Good research is all about finding answers to your research questions—not necessarily as a way to verify what you already think you know. Solely looking for confirmation is a very limiting research strategy, since it involves picking and choosing what information to collect and prevents you from developing the most accurate understanding of the topic. When you conduct research, make sure to keep an open mind so that you can learn as deeply as possible.
- Stay organized. During the data collection process, you’ll be seeing a huge amount of information, from webpages to PDFs to videos. It’s vital that you keep all of this information organized in some way to prevent yourself from losing something or not being able to cite something properly. There are plenty of ways to keep your research project organized, but here are a few common ones: Bookmarks in your Internet browser, index cards, and an annotated bibliography that you keep updated as you go.
- Take advantage of library resources. If you still have questions about researching, don’t worry—there are plenty of places out there to help you out, even if you’re not a student doing academic or course-related research. In fact, many high school and university libraries offer resources not only for faculty members’ and students’ research but for the larger community. Be sure to check out library websites for research guides or access to specific databases.
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