I’VE PICKED A TOPIC
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I’VE PICKED A TOPIC. Now what?. Choose some “keywords”. Say your topic is Animal Intelligence. The Big Question you’d like to answer is: “Are human beings really the smartest living creatures on earth?”

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I’VE PICKED A TOPIC

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I ve picked a topic

I’VE PICKED A TOPIC

Now what?


I ve picked a topic

Choose some “keywords”

Say your topic is Animal Intelligence. The Big Question you’d like to answer is: “Are human beings really the smartest living creatures on earth?”

Instead of entering your question into Google, Yahoo!, or whatever, think about some “keywords” that relate to animal intelligence. You may need to do some preliminary research before you generate these keywords. Wikipedia is actually good for finding keywords—just not for “scholarly,” reliable research.


I ve picked a topic

Emotions/

Empathy

Whales

Dolphins

Self-awareness

Parrots

Animal intelligence

Tools

Bees

Interspecies relationships

Communication

Octopus

All these words having something to do with the topic of animal intelligence. Some are animals scientists believe are very intelligent. Others are things about people—or animals—that researchers believe indicate or prove intelligence.


I ve picked a topic

Remember: The Internet is only as smart as the person using it.

The Internet does not “understand” the words you type in for a search, it just looks for matches for that word. Some words have more than one meaning. Your Internet search will be more accurate if you combine a couple of words from your list of search terms instead of using just one.

For instance, if you just search for “DOLPHINS” in Yahoo!, you get six hits for the Miami Dolphins on the first page, and two for other sports teams called the Dolphins. (Yes, and a couple of sites about the animal.)

If you type in DOLPHINS INTELLIGENCE, you don’t get any hits about sports teams—all you get are websites about the animals that live in the ocean and how smart they are!


I ve picked a topic

This website has lots of color and pretty pictures. But look more closely. Some sentences don’t make sense. Even when you go back to the home site, there’s nothing to tell you who wrote the page or where they found their information. You don’t know whether the page was put together by a kid or a scientist. There’s been some interesting research done recently on animal intelligence—but since you don’t know WHEN this was written, you don’t know whether the most up-to-date information is included.

NOT ALL WEBSITES ARE CREATED EQUAL


I ve picked a topic

This website turned up from the same search. At the bottom of the article, we find out that the author is a scientist who studies animal intelligence. It was published in a major British newspaper. It’s a little old—ten, nearly eleven, years--so we might want to make sure we have information from a couple of more up-to-date sources, too. We might also see whether this author has written other things about dolphins more recently. This is a much more reliable website for research.


I ve picked a topic

WEBSITE? DATABASE? WHICH SHOULD I USE WHEN, AND WHY?

The reliable article I found online was originally published in a newspaper. Magazine and newspaper articles IN GENERAL, WITH EXCEPTIONS, can be more reliable for research than SOME websites.

There’s a better place to find magazine, journal, and newspaper articles than the Internet: Databases. Databases are Premium sites. They cost money to get into. Most states, including Connecticut, pick up the expense through the government and let residents use the databases for free. Connecticut’s package of free databases is collected in a website: www.iconn.org.

When would I use a website, and when would I use a database?


I ve picked a topic

I WOULD LOOK THIS UP________

What’s tomorrow’s weather?

It’s snowing! Will we have school today?

Do the Mets have a game tomorrow?

What was the score in the Giants/Packers

game yesterday?

How much does Beyonce’s new album cost?

I just saw a movie with a really good actor.

He looks SO familiar. What other movies

was he in? And is it true he was born in

Connecticut?!

Mom was playing a CD by a band called

Badfinger. Who the *(#&$)$ were they?


I ve picked a topic

I WOULD LOOK THIS UP IN A WEBSITE.

What’s tomorrow’s weather?

It’s snowing! Will we have school today?

Do the Mets have a game today?

What was the score in the Giants/Packers

game yesterday?

How much does Beyonce’s new album cost?

I just saw a movie with a really good actor.

He looks SO familiar. What other movies

was he in? And is it true he was born in

Connecticut?!

Mom was playing a CD by a band called

Badfinger. Who the *(#&$)$ were they?


I ve picked a topic

I WOULD LOOK THIS UP __________

My bio teacher wants me to read a scholarly article

discussing how ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

I’m writing a paper on submarines in the Civil War.

My teacher says I can use two websites—but I also

need a chapter from a book, a magazine article, and

a newspaper article.

My grandfather was mentioned in an article in the New

York Times in 1985. I want to read it.


I ve picked a topic

I WOULD LOOK THIS UP IN A DATABASE.

My bio teacher wants me to read a scholarly article

discussing how ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

I’m writing a paper on submarines in the Civil War.

My teacher says I can use two websites—but I also

need a chapter from a book, a magazine article, and

a newspaper article.

My grandfather was mentioned in an article in the New

York Times in 1985. I want to read it.

I need at least two expert arguments for offshore oil

drilling, and two against it.


I ve picked a topic

AND FOR THIS I WOULD LOOK ______

I saw the movie Lincoln and I got really interested in

his life. How accurate was the movie? Were there

lines in the script that Lincoln actually said? His

relationship with his wife and his sons was so

complicated—is that true? What was life like

during the Civil War?

Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla were both inventors

who worked with electricity at around the same

time. What did ordinary people think about the

whole idea of electric power—and which inventor

did they think did a better job?


I ve picked a topic

AND FOR THIS I WOULD LOOK INBOOKS.

I saw the movie Lincoln and I got really interested in

his life. How accurate was the movie? Were there

lines in the script that Lincoln actually said? His

relationship with his wife and his sons was so

complicated—is that true? What was life like

during the Civil War?

Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla were both inventors

who worked with electricity at around the same

time. What did ordinary people think about the

whole idea of electric power—and which inventor

did they think did a better job?


I ve picked a topic

I READ IT IN A BOOK WITH A BLUE COVER.

KEEP A RECORD OF YOUR RESEARCH!

When you’re writing a report or doing research in general, it’s really frustrating to know you read something—and then not be able to find it again.

It doesn’t matter whether you use old-fashioned notecards, a notebook, a page in Microsoft Word, a folder in your email, GoogleDocs, your Dropbox, or some other method. One thing remains the same. You’ll either paraphrase (put in your own words) what you’ve read, or you’ll copy it word for word by hand, or photocopy it, or copy and paste it into a document. And AS SOON AS YOU’VE DONE THAT you will ALWAYS write down (or copy and paste) the website, or book ISBN #, or database article citation, where you found it.

Where do you find those things?


I ve picked a topic

FOR A WEBSITE

Remember the website about dolphin intelligence we decided was reliable? I really like this paragraph about wild dolphins that have learned to use tools.

Dolphins can also use tools to solve problems. Scientists have observed a dolphin coaxing a reluctant moray eel out of its crevice by killing a scorpion fish and using its spiny body to poke at the eel. Off the western coast of Australia, bottlenose dolphins place sponges over their snouts, which protects them from the spines of stonefish and stingrays as they forage over shallow seabeds.

I copy and paste it into the Word document where I’m collecting my notes. Then, to remind myself where I found it, I copy the URL and paste it right after the paragraph.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2003/jul/03/research.science

This is NOT the citation I’ll put into the Works Cited page of my report, but it WILL help me to create that citation when the time comes.


I ve picked a topic

I found this article from Smithsonian magazine in iconn.org.

I email it to myself.

I also make sure I’ve copied the CITATION. This IS what I will put in my Works Cited page—databases do all that for me!

Ask your teacher what Citation format they’d like you to use. Most teachers at BMHS ask for MLA. This may NOT be the case in college.Here’s the citation, in MLA format:

FOR A DATABASE ARTICLE

VANDERBILT, TOM. "Animal Intelligence." Smithsonian 44.6 (2013): 70. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 8 Jan. 2014.


I ve picked a topic

FOR A BOOK

This is a book about a VERY smart parrot.

I want to talk about these pages in my report.

An ISBN Number is a unique number assigned by an official U.S. agency to every book that is published.

To create the citation for this book, I will need the book’s ISBN Number.


I ve picked a topic

IT’ ALL ABOUT ME

I do some writing—books and magazine articles—and actually get paid for it. I write nonfiction—that’s informational stuff—so I do the same sort of work you do when you’re writing a report. I do research just like you’re doing.

Before I get a project accepted, the publisher or editor ALWAYS asks what sources I’ve used in my research. If I want to come across as someone who knows what she’s doing and deserves to get paid for her work, I need to prove that I’m using quality resources. Wikipedia is NOT evil, depending what you’re using it for—but if I told an editor I’d be relying on Wikipedia for my research, I would NOT get a paying writing assignment. If I told them I’d gotten all my information from just one book, they’d say my viewpoint was too narrow and my work would be too much like plagiarizing.

BUT if I presented them with a bibliography—a Works Cited page—with three or four carefully-chosen websites, the same number of database articles showing that I’d considered arguments and beliefs besides my own, and a book or two by reputable authors who are experts on their subject, I’d stand a chance of landing a writing contract.

It’s not just true with writing. The better and more complete the information you use to make any kind of presentation or “pitch,” the better chance you have of being taken seriously.


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