Whether or not you wish to pursue more research-oriented degree programs such as post-graduation or doctoral studies, research skills are a continuing requirement throughout your academic life regardless of how long it lasts. It is important that you hone your skills as a researcher so as to enable yourself to think critically and be able to give educative responses. Academic courses come with pre-determined syllabi but they are merely broad areas that students are expected to explore through and through with time. For that to happen there should be an initiative.
Now, you may want to have a head-start, and I am here to provide you some of it. In order to become a better researcher, there are certain things you must remember. I have listed 5 of these things below—and all you need to do is to pay attention to them.
- Wikipedia is not always reliable.
Everyone loves Wikipedia—it is free, easy to access, and voluminous. But, it has one big problem: it can be edited by anyone and everyone. It is not the most authentic source of information, but you can use it for preliminary research. But, do not blindly accept what this website tells you. Instead, you may want to pick wider points from its database and refer to other, more reliable websites such as Springer.
- Explore the references
This is one of the most helpful tips I have received from a friend, and it is awesome. Whenever you read an article or a book, make sure you take a look at its references/bibliography. A bibliography, for general information, is a list of sources the author has referred to. You can access these sources so that you can gain more information on the topic. One reference will lead you to another, and the chain will get longer and more informative than before.
- Take it slow
If you are in a hurry and are cherry-picking information, then you will not make a good researcher. Researching is more about patience than about the quantity of information. You must be patient with whatever area of study you have chosen. If you are studying something you are not able to understand, read it again or ask for help. Honing researching skills requires the researcher to consume his energies into understanding every aspect of what he is reading because otherwise his knowledge is half-baked. So, you pick one article and read it thoroughly. Switch only when you have understood the article properly.
Compilation of information is an absolute must. You can compile data offline or online; it totally depends on you. If you are not the kind who likes to read on PC, then get print outs and keep them in designated folders. In case, e-learning is not a problem, then you may want to categorize your sources according to the subject matter or store them in software available online that serve this purpose. Zotero, for example, is a great tool to aggregate your sources.
- Always check the latest
We often end up with information that has not been updated. This means that you are not sure whether this piece of information holds true in contemporary times. Suppose you are reading about a tax law and haven’t checked its status and your friend tells you that the law was repealed last year, this will be a cause of embarrassment and reflect badly on your research skills. It is, therefore, advised that you must always check the most recent update on the subject area.
- Read extensively
Yes, research is, in essence, about reading. You must read, read and read as much as you can on a given topic in order to appreciate it wholesomely. Suppose you want to read about the constitutionality of Death Penalty and you pick up one or two articles on the topic, you may gain information but that may not necessarily be significant in nature. The deeper you dig, the more you will know. Research aims to sharpen your critical reasoning and analysis, and unless you develop a habit of reading your skills will not be able to breach the wall of mediocrity.
Have you read?