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Understand Your Assignment
In order to research effectively, you first need a solid understanding of your assignment and the types of evidence you need to fulfill it. There are a number of issues you need to consider.
Criteria for Identifying Relevant Evidence
The magnitude of your project
The larger the project, the more information you are likely to need.
Time available for conducting research
Is the project due tomorrow, next month or at the end of your senior year? If you have very little time you may want to avoid resources that involve a long time commitment.
Your opportunities for research
Can you go to the library to use the full range of Penn's resources? Can you visit sites off campus that have unique information not available elsewhere? Do you have access to data sets that would be useful. If not, you will need to depend on what is available, and you may want to focus on finding full text articles.
The scope of your project
Do you need to consider a range of concepts? The broader the subject of research, the more resources you are likely to need.
Are expected to use primary or secondary resources? Are you required to use popular or scholarly resources? Is the project expected to make use of current work? The answers to these questions are largely determined by the audience to which you are writing.
For example: I was assigned a research paper for my history class. It is about the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
It must be twenty pages long and is due in six weeks. I am going to need to find a significant amount of evidence to support my thesis.
We are expected to use both primary and secondary resources. All of the secondary resources need to be scholarly.
I can't visit Chicago to access unique primary resources, but many primary and secondary resources are available online and in print through the Library.
I need to study both political and social events of the period, so I will need to look at both relevant government documents and relevant popular publications.