The goal for this assignment is to get you thinking about how you approach research and to be conscious of the paths you take.

  • At this early stage, there are no ‘right or wrong’ answers and making note of both your research successes and failures will be very important at this point.
  • The main thing is to get started and begin building momentum.
  • You will also be getting familiar with the different aspects of your research problem and begin to identify the important pieces of the puzzle.

The Research Log

Researching your project will probably require a lot of time browsing through library catalogs and journal indices to find the most relevant, most vital information about your topic. Keeping track of the resources you have used and how you sought those resources out can help you to embark on a most thorough and systematic search.

As you begin and progress through your research, keep a log of the resources and research tools you used, the terms and keywords you search, and a summary of your findings.

A record of your research methods can help you avoid duplicating your research efforts, and can aid you in backtracking through your research should the necessity arise.

Essentially, the research log is a diary of your research processes.

Every time you do something toward finding resources for your project, enter it into your research log. Keep track of keywords you use when searching databases and the internet. Keep track of things that come up that are useful, and even those that are not so useful so you know where you've been and where you haven't.

Step One - Brief Research Strategy Summary

  • Begin with a brief statement of a research strategy. Where are you going to start looking for both your primary and secondary sources? What kinds of sources do you think will be most helpful to you in completing this project?
  • Where do you intend to begin to begin searching? Subject catalogs, library databases, library stacks, the internet, or elsewhere? What kinds of keywords and terms will you search for?

Step Two - Information Collection & Tracking

  • As you perform your searches, record all the keywords and terms you use. Remember to note the dates you execute each search—you might even structure your research log by date, as you would a diary. Keep track of whether you are searching under keywords or subject headings.
  • Record full bibliographic data for any sources that look interesting enough to check out. If you print out the results of your search and highlight the most likely sources, that's fine, but transcribe what you did to the log you will post to Blackboard, as I can only give you credit for what you show me.
  • Record the dates you look at each of your sources and make a brief comment about the value of the source to your project.
  • Record ideas that you have for the next time you sit down to research—where might you look next for materials?

Helpful Tips

  • Remember that this work will be handed in. Do not write that you have looked at something if you have not. That will be treated as a violation of Academic Integrity.
  • Whenever you talk to either me or a research librarian, make sure that you bring your research log so that we can see what you have already done and make constructive suggestions.
  • This is a formal assignment, but its purpose is to help you organize and stay in control of your research. With that in mind, it is your responsibility to tailor your research log format to make it work best for you. I am providing a template to help you get started and if you like it you're welcome to use it exclusively. But feel free to add to or modify the categories as needed. I would caution you against deleting the categories completely, though. This template includes categories for the basic information you will need in order to make best use of your resources.
  • If you choose to make adjustments to the standard template, please be clear about what you're doing and what your results are. I am not a detective, so just write out your results. If you come to a dead end, that's fine - just put that on your log and move on to the next thing. Don't think of it as a failure but rather as an exploration and ruling out of a possible research approach.
  • Like anything, you will get out of this assignment what you put into it. Take the time to make it work for you.

Adapted from© 2009, W. Todd Kaneko