It seems that no matter how many student research papers you assign, each new assignment brings your students the challenge of finding the right sources in a timely manner.

Facing an impending deadline can lead some students to try shortcuts that result in lackluster papers that don’t meet academic standards. Instructors can help students take control of the research and writing process by providing guidance along with the project instructions.

Student research guide

In their book, Cengage Guide to Research, 3rd Edition, Susan K. Miller-Cochran and Rochelle L. Rodrigo lead students through the process of completing a research paper.

Recognizing that technology is a part of daily life, the authors show students how to apply the research skills they use every day (buying a car or choosing a cell phone plan, for example) to academic and professional settings. Annotated student samples, research scenarios, and Techno Tips illustrate the “how” and “why” of researching and engage students with key research technologies important to success.

The authors broke the process into four components:

  • Preparing for research
  • Conducting research
  • Reporting on research
  • Formatting research

When it comes to conducting research, the authors suggested that students reflect on what they already know about the topic and then identify the kind of information that they will need to find. Sources of information fall into two categories: primary and secondary research.

  • Primary research: going straight to the resource to answer a research questions
  • Secondary research: using resources created by someone else

According to the authors, “To decide whether you will be conducting primary or secondary research, return to your rhetorical question. The type of information you need will be partially determined by your research question, your perception of your audience, and your purpose for writing.”

Students are likely to use a Google search to find resources for their papers. Miller-Cochran and Rodrigo suggested that this practice be discouraged because it can result in a multitude of resources most of which do not meet academic standards.

Instead, they suggested that students be led to use academic journal databases that can be accessed through campus library services such as Gale’s Academic OneFile.

The authors stressed that students should understand the process by which resources are reviewed. Generally speaking, the resources found through a general Google search cannot be verified. Yet, resources found in an academic database are generally reviewed before publication. They make a definite distinction between library resource versus Internet resources.

Some Internet resources need to be scrutinized especially carefully. A prime example is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia whose entries any user can revise. While many users take responsibility for reviewing and monitoring content, Wikipedia is not foolproof as a resource.

Research resources

Resources that are appropriate for students to use when working on research papers include those that have been subject to rigorous review.

These resources include:

The Cengage Guide to Research approaches research in a unique way by helping students think about how to look for connections between the research they already do in their personal, academic, and professional lives. By breaking research down into a set of smaller strategies that fit together into a research process for students, The Cengage Guide to Research makes the task of academic research more manageable, relevant, and even enjoyable.

What are your tips for encouraging students to use research databases when completing their projects? Share them in the comments. 

Reference: Miller-Cochran, Susan K., Rodrigo, Rochelle L. Cengage Guide to Research, 3rd Edition. 2017. Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.