Category Archives: Research Strategies

Research Strategies: Lesson 3: How to Evaluate Secondary Sources

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This lesson focuses on how to evaluate sources for effectiveness.  Not all sources are created equal and, to build the strongest research paper possible, it is necessary to select sources that will help you to reach valid conclusions or conclusively support your hypothesis or main idea.

When assigning research projects, instructors may often request that students use “authoritative sources” – this means sources that meet some or all of the following criteria: they have been assessed by qualified experts from the same field or discipline (peer reviewed sources); they include substantial supporting evidence; they cite a wide variety of other sources and/or studies; and they seem written from an objective (i.e. non-biased) standpoint.

The materials in this lesson will help you to evaluate each source you find for its authoritativeness, so that you can support your research paper or project with the best possible sources.

Research Strategies: Lesson 1: How to Choose a Research Strategy: Lesson Resources

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SUNY New Paltz library research guides:

SUNY New Paltz course research guides by discipline:

Purdue OWL Research and Citation Resources:

Purdue OWL Types of Sources:

Cornell University Library on Research Strategies:

Mythbusters  Database of Myth Results:

George Mason University’s Writing Center on research questions:

Empire State College on research questions:

Cornell University on the research process:

University of Wisconson on the research process:

Georgetown University on the 5 commandments of research projects

Videos on specific research skills from UC Davis:

A detailed step-by-step on researching a paper (targeted to teenagers):

Lesson 1: How to Choose a Research Topic

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The first task for many research papers or projects is to formulate the topic, itself.   This initial step can be a major stumbling block for many students and can derail the whole assignment before it is hardly begun!

For some students coming up with a topic that meets the criteria of the assignment and is neither too narrowly nor too broadly focused is a major challenge.  This lesson will detail the many variables students should consider as they develop a topic that will meet all necessary requirements.

Research Strategies: Glossary

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Academic Journal: a print or online collection of articles, usually published a few times per year, that typically holds peer-reviewed papers on a particular topic; these are often accessed through library databases

Archive: a collection of related documents or objects stored together that can be used for research

Bibliography: a list of writings, often with notes, that all relate to a particular subject

Citation: a shortened reference to a source to give credit for work or ideas and to provide a way for later readers to find that material

.com site: a web site owned by an individual or for-profit organization

Database: a collection of data points that is organized in a particular way and can be searched or accessed for research purposes; many are available through university libraries

.edu site: a web site based at an academic institution

Experiment: a controlled situation with one or more variables that the person doing it tests to see what happens

.gov site: a web site maintained by a government agency

Hypothesis: an initial idea or theory about the answer to that research question and is something you can test or explore to find out a stronger answer

Integrate (sources): to bring different parts together to make a new whole

Judgment: the creation of an evaluation (either positive, negative, or mixed) after careful thought, consideration, and/or consultation

Jurisdiction: the issue of who has authority over a particular issue

Methodology: the procedures used to do a particular kind of research; these are often associated with particular fields of study

Observation: seeing a situation in a careful and planned way, and recording the details of what you noticed

.org site: a web site run by a not-for-profit and non-governmental organization

Paraphrase:  a similar length version of what a source says, put in extremely different language than the original source; often used to translate technical information to a less expert audience; these must be cited in academic papers

Peer-reviewed: an article or paper that has been examined by experts in the area it focuses on to make sure the work is legitimate; this is one of the most reliable types of research

Primary Research: collecting data through your own observations, experiments, or other means. It is first-hand information

Qualitative Research: works with data that can be observed but not precisely measured

Quantitative Research: observes data in a way that is numerical or can be measured

Quotation: the exact words from a source, used in an appropriate context in a paper

Reference: a source of information or the mention of that source that provided the information

Research Process: the formal or informal set of activities, involving lots of preliminary work and planning in academic cases, which helps you move in an orderly way from curiosity and questions to specific answers

Research Question: a specific, answerable, direct query that shows what you are trying to find out

Secondary Research: examining the data and methods that other people have used, and considering their results and ideas to help shape your thoughts

Summary: a much shorter version of a key point or issues from a source, put into new language; these must be cited in academic papers

Thick Description: a particularly detailed observation that records not only the events or actions seen, but also portrays the context and immediate impact of those events

Trade Journal: a publication that may come out multiple times per year that has information and articles related to a particular profession; these articles are usually short and are not peer-reviewed research

Works Cited: a list of sources that are directly referenced within a paper; the works cited list contains enough detail for readers to find the original sources