Twenty-first century students don’t need to spend a lot of time learning how to find information. After all, many of us are online every day retrieving information: reconnecting with people on Facebook, finding open classes through PiratesNet, downloading driving directions, weather forecasts, song lyrics, recipes, and other pieces of information that get us through the day.
But information retrieval is not research! Research requires that you find information, of course, but it also demands much more from you. The MLA Handbook defines research in terms of exploring ideas, probing issues, solving problems, or making arguments relating to existing ideas. Yes, students need information to complete these tasks, but the depth and breadth of information needed moves far beyond a single source.
Within the research process students also need considerable time to read the information they find, time to reflect on new information in terms of what they already know and what they are learning, and time to write multiple drafts of speeches/papers so that they can present your research as clearly, logically, and successfully as possible.
This guide offers you a set of steps to follow that will move you beyond the mere gathering of information, and into the realm of real academic research. It will help you develop a research strategy that will, with time and practice, enable you to become a more efficient researcher, saving you time and sanity.