Conducting research
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Conducting Research. Research is an investigation It requires the use of the scientific process in order to discover ‘truth’ Research requires study, observation, comparison and/or experimentation

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What is research

  • Research is an investigation

  • It requires the use of the scientific process in order to discover ‘truth’

  • Research requires study, observation, comparison and/or experimentation

  • Effective research results in conclusion(s) which increase our understanding of the topics considered.

What is research?

Research philosophy

  • As a student, you need to have an understanding of your goal and purpose for any academic pursuit.

  • Effective research is always considerate of how and why to collect information.

  • Effective research requires precision at all steps of the process – collecting and recording sources, collecting and analyzing data, analyzing and interpreting information.

Research Philosophy

Research skills

  • Finding information and purpose for any academic pursuit.

  • Determining credibility or usefulness of information

  • Planning

  • Handling data

  • Managing sources

Research Skills


  • When you begin your research, do you have a process in mind for your search?

  • How long should/do you evaluate a source before determining whether or not to use it?

  • If you go straight to a computer and use google, do you know why? Do you know how to more effectively find the results you want?

  • Can you do a ‘boolean search’ and effectively use ‘and’ ‘or’ and ‘not’ in your search? Here is a great link to a visual on how such searches work.




Finding information

  • First step in finding information: Check for books. phrase searches (e.g. “John Quincy Adams” – the quotations are important here).

  • Library is organized by topic. Look in the index of potential books to determine their usefulness.

  • Second: Check online databases of journals and peer-reviewed papers. – Our school has access to MANY of these.

  • These are generally very specific and precise, they are peer-reviewed, and are the foundations of many academic careers

Finding information

Finding information1

  • Third: Look for web-based information. phrase searches (e.g. “John Quincy Adams” – the quotations are important here).

  • You MUST be savvy enough to be able to evaluate its academic value.

  • Ask questions of the information you have found – is it a reputable website? Is there an author? How recent is the information? Does it provide sources? – the sketchier your answers to these questions are, the less likely you should use this source.

Finding Information

Finding information2

  • Wikipedia? YES! Wikipedia has been determined to be at least AS accurate as the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

  • Wikipedia, however, should not the both the start and end point of your research. For topics that you know little about, it’s a good starting point. As you learn new info, seek more academic sources.

  • For all sources, consider authority, currency, and purpose.

Finding Information




  • Is the information relevant to your topic today? publisher, or an ‘underground’ publisher? Is it self-published?

  • How can you determine its value today?

  • Does this information seem in line with other sources you have consulted? What can explain the differences (if any)?



  • Can you determine the author’s intention? publisher, or an ‘underground’ publisher? Is it self-published?

  • Would a paper on the effects of smoking written by the Ministry of Health differ from a similar paper written by a tobacco company?

  • Can you detect bias in the information? Is the author objective and impartial?

  • Is the authorship ‘clean’ – that is, is it well-written?


Scientific method

Scientific Method

Bayes rule

  • Here is a simple introduction to Bayes' rule from  help to explain the reasons for human behaviour, either through a historical, macro, or micro perspectivean article in the Economist (9/30/00)."The essence of the Bayesian approach is to provide a mathematical rule explaining how you should change your existing beliefs in the light of new evidence. In other words, it allows scientists to combine new data with their existing knowledge or expertise. The canonical example is to imagine that a precocious newborn observes his first sunset, and wonders whether the sun will rise again or not. He assigns equal prior probabilities to both possible outcomes, and represents this by placing one white and one black marble into a bag. The following day, when the sun rises, the child places another white marble in the bag. The probability that a marble plucked randomly from the bag will be white (ie, the child's degree of belief in future sunrises) has thus gone from a half to two-thirds. After sunrise the next day, the child adds another white marble, and the probability (and thus the degree of belief) goes from two-thirds to three-quarters. And so on. Gradually, the initial belief that the sun is just as likely as not to rise each morning is modified to become a near-certainty that the sun will always rise."

Bayes’ Rule

Research values

  • Researchers must be committed to objectivity in their research work.

  • Scientific researchers aim for empirical verification of their ideas. Opinion, intuition, faith, and tradition cannot ultimately be taken as fact.

  • Research must be designed to contribute to and build on other knowledge.

  • Research has value only if it is communicated clearly and honestly. This includes not only the ultimate conclusion, but also the process.

Research Values

Research values1

Research Values

Collecting your own information

Collecting your own information

Citing and referencing

  • It is YOUR responsibility to ensure that ALL information which requires citation and/or reference has been handled appropriately.

  • There are various methods for citing and referencing:

    • MLA – Generally used in liberal arts and humanities.

    • APA – Most commonly used in social sciences

    • Chicago Style – also used in humanities; uses footnotes instead of parenthetical references (a la MLA).

Citing and Referencing