Organizing Your Research Paper


[intro music playing] “Organizing your research paper: refining your topic”. This video addresses some preliminary tests in writing a paper, how to think about the concepts, and how to structure a search in the
published literature. Each search is different but I want to present general
strategies that may help narrow and define the search topic so the student can write a paper, not
a thesis and not a book. I start my thought process with the simple questions. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How many, how much? And why does it matter? These questions
tell me focus on an aspect of my topic and parse the field to a
searchable set of terms. Let’s look at a big topic: the psycho-social aspects of genocide. Why genocide? Genocide is an interdisciplinary topic that engages
scholars across the USF campus and across the world. Genocide continues
to be a significant threat to the health of populations in the 21st century. It has
been the leading cause of preventable violent death in the 20th and 21st
centuries. Besides, let’s just suppose it is an assigned topic and I have to write a paper on it. I decide to study the destruction of Armenians by the Turks at the end of
World War One. First I need to define the terms “genocide” and
“psychosocial aspects”. To find a good working definition of
“genocide”, I look in a reliable dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, the OED, gives an historical view of the use of the word. There are several online dictionaries in the USF library’s catalog. Books and articles may define the term
differently but give a more precise definition for a particular purpose. The OED makes clear that the word
“genocide” was created or first used in 1944, but the term seems applicable to all acts of deliberate and
systematic destruction of an ethnic group or nation. I might look further into the global
community, and examine the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide approved by the
United Nations General Assembly in December 1948 which made genocide a crime under international law. I repeat the same search in the OED for
the term “psycho-social” to be sure I understand the term and use it appropriately. Now I need to know more about the armenians and the Turks. That is the “who” question. Some quick research and a good encyclopedia (my favorite is the Encyclopedia
Britannica) will reveal the “what” forced migration at
gunpoint, and death by starvation and disease of many Armenians who were expelled from Turkey. “When?” 1915 to 1923. “Where?” From Turkey to the deserts of Syria and into Russia. “How many?” Between one million, and maybe one and a half million or more across all ages. We really don’t know. “Why” is going to require a lot more research
and usually involve at least two different points of view. Now back to my assignment, the psycho-social aspects of genocide. Well which psycho-social facet? Personal violence against? Degradation?
Trauma? Denial? Which one or two do
I want to research? and on which segment of the population?
How about children? the elderly? women? men? women of childbearing age? A good approach is to test the
databases and determine what information is available. Using my first search term “Armenian
Genocide” I search in PsycINFO and I find some
interesting articles on the legacy of social injuries that
affect future generations in Armenian families. For more search terms look under
complete resources to see the subject headings used in an article that looks promising. With terms that focus on my particular
interest, I can now run a new search using new terms. In this way I narrow my
search. I repeat the search in PubMed. Note that
PubMed will have the same concepts but not necessarily the same subject headings, since that
particular database uses medical subject headings. Repeat the
search in at least three databases the articles
indexed in one database may be different from those in another database . I even find a
dissertation from 2007 which is available online for pro
quest entitled, “Constructing Armenian identity: the influences of historical legacy on
succeeding generations of the Armenian Genocide”. That fits my
topic and peaks my interest. My search topic “The
historical legacy of genocide on a people” is now defined, the search scope is narrowed, and my initial searches are successful. I
can now work from the bibliographies in these initial sources to trace
additional articles and books that may inform my research. I can also use the related records feature
in PubMed, PsycINFO and Web of Knowledge to track down additional articles or use the Cited References search feature in Web of Knowledge to
trace the names of authors who have cited the authors and articles
of most interest to me. Other sources of information
include the library catalogue, databases such as sociological abstracts, or Project
MUSE. Contemporary news archives like the New
York Times, international research institutes
including the World Health Organization and the United Nations, and web sites for Armenia and Turkey to
explore their archives and their current stance on the “why” question. The answer to the other question “why does
that matter?” will become the reason I chose to
research and write the paper and the implications for historical
trends, contemporary thought or other measures of relevancy. As a rule, I open a new bibliographic file
for each paper and save the citation information, the
database source, and the abstract. That way I have a known
path back to articles and ideas that were discovered in the search
process. If tomorrow I have a new idea for a new
tack on psychosocial aspects, based on abstract that I read today, I have a
starting point for that new search. Saving the descriptors for an
article captures the keywords that may spark an
idea for a new search when you review your search history or
your information the bibliographic file. For articles that are not hyperlinked, I use Citation Linker to find them and / or Interlibrary Loan to request then. If you’re not familiar with
these two library resources, take a look two other videos in this series entitled “Interlibrary loans: how we can obtain
materials for you and “Citation Linker: how to find an
article when you have a citation”. That lays out
the search strategy I frequently used to tackle a big subject. Define the terms and
the topic, select an aspect or two of that general
topic, define the time frame and the population,
and then search in a combination of databases on a combination of terms Keep track of where you searched and the specific
terms you used, and save your work often. A well-kept bibliography in an electronic
format will enhance your writing process when you actually sit down to work on
your paper. New citations will be ready and your bibliography will be
complete. Learn how to use the Write and Cite feature in RefWorks. The program has very good tutorials.
RefWorks compliments Word so as you write your paper, you mark your
citations. When you have finished your conclusion,
Refworks will format your bibliography in the format you designate. If you’re
unsure of your search strategy or how to proceed in your research, you can always ask a librarian.

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