Thinking Critically about the Research Process

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Text of Thinking Critically about the Research Process

Chapter 5

Copyright 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.Technical Communication, 13th Edition

John M. LannonLaura J. Gurak

Chapter 7Thinking Critically about the Research Process

Copyright 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Learning ObjectivesThink critically about the research processDifferentiate between procedural stages and inquiry stages of researchDifferentiate between primary and secondary researchExplore online secondary sources using various search technologiesExplore traditional secondary sources (books, periodicals, reference works)

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Learning Objectives (continued)Explore primary sources (inquiries, interviews, surveys)Understand copyright in relation to research practices

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The Research ProcessMajor decisions in the workplace are based on careful research, with the findings recorded in a written report. These decisions require you to think critically about each step of the process and about the information you gather for your research.

Copyright 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Research Process (continued)Following are the procedural stages in the research process:

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The Research Process (continued)Following are the critical thinking stages in the research process:

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Asking the Right QuestionsThe answers you uncover will only be as good as the questions you ask:

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Exploring a Balance of ViewsInstead of settling for the most comforting or convenient answer, pursue the best answer. Consider a balance of perspectives from up-to-date and reputable sources:

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Achieving Adequate Depth in Your SearchBalanced research examines a broad range of evidence; thorough research, however, examines that evidence in sufficient depth. There are three levels of information: At the surface level are publications from the popular media, designed for general readers.At the moderate level are trade, business, and technical publications, designed for moderately informed to specialized readers. At the deepest level is specialized literature, designed for practicing professionals.

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Achieving Adequate Depth in Your Search (continued)Do research at all three levels to achieve adequate depth:

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Evaluating Your FindingsNot all findings have equal value. Some information might be distorted, incomplete, misleading, or biased. Ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your sources:Is this information accurate, reliable, and relatively unbiased?Do the facts verify the claim?How much of the information is useful?Is this the whole or the real story?Do I need more information?

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Interpreting Your FindingsOnce you have decided which of your findings seem legitimate, you need to decide what they all mean by asking these questions:What are my conclusions and do they address my original research question?Do any findings conflict?Are other interpretations possible?Should I reconsider the evidence?What, if anything, should be done?

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Primary versus Secondary SourcesPrimary research means getting information directly from the source by conducting interviews and surveys and by observing people, events, or processes in action. Secondary research is information obtained second hand by reading what other researchers have compiled in books and articles in print or online.Combine primary and secondary research. Start with secondary research, but expand on what others have already learned and add credibility to your research by conducting primary research.

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Exploring Secondary SourcesSecondary sources include:Web sitesonline news outlets and magazinesblogs and wikisbooks in the libraryjournal, magazine, and newspaper articlesgovernment publicationsother public records

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Web-based Secondary SourcesTo find various sites on the Web, use two basic tools: subject directories and search engines.Subject directories are indexes compiled by editors and others who sift through Web sites and compile the most useful links. Search engines, such as Yahoo and Google, scan for Web sites containing key words. When using search engines, be sure to adequately refine your search to avoid too many results.

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Web-based Secondary Sources (continued)Wikipedia is a popular Web-based source, but use it only as a starting point, as Wikipedia is not peer-reviewed and contains many errors.Other Web-based secondary sources include: general, commercial, and academic Web sites; government Web sites; online news outlets and magazines; blogs; wikis; internet forums and electronic mailing lists; e-libraries; and periodical databases.

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Guidelines for Online ResearchWhen conducting online research, keep the following guidelines in mind:Expect limited results from any one search engine or subject directory.When using a search engine, select keywords or search phrases that are varied and technical rather than general.When using Wikipedia or other online encyclopedias, check out the footnotes and other citations.Consider the domain type (where the site originates).

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Guidelines for Online Research (continued)Identify the sites purpose and sponsor. Use bookmarks and hotlists for quick access to favorite Web sites. Save or print what you need before it changes or disappears. Download only what you need; use it ethically; obtain permission; and credit your sources.

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Traditional Secondary SourcesTraditional secondary research tools are still of great value. Most hard-copy secondary sources are carefully reviewed and edited before they are published. Locate hard-copy sources by using your librarys online public access catalog (OPAC). Traditional secondary sources include: books and periodicals; reference works; government publications; and gray literature (pamphlets, brochures, and other documents not found at the library, but which may be useful).

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Exploring Primary SourcesPrimary sources include unsolicited inquiries, informational interviews, surveys, and observations or experiments:Unsolicited inquiries include letters, phone calls, or email inquiries to experts or others who can clarify or supplement information you already have.Informational interviews allow you to talk with an expert on your subject and uncover more in-depth information than unsolicited inquiries can. When conducting interviews, plan and prepare ahead, be courteous, avoid loaded questions, listen actively, and take good notes.

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Exploring Primary Sources (continued)Surveys allow you to achieve a wider range of viewpoints by sending survey questionnaires to a sample group of people within a target population. When conducting a survey, keep the questionnaire short, ask questions that can be tabulated, and keep your questions unbiased and unambiguous.Observations and experiments allow you to uncover information my making site visits or conducting controlled tests. When conducting observations and experiments, follow a careful plan, try to avoid bias, and record results accurately and completely.

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Review Questions1. What are the four procedural stages of the research process?2. What are the five critical thinking stages in the research process?3. What are the three levels of depth in the research process?4. What is the difference between evaluating findings and interpreting findings?5. What are primary and secondary research?

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Review Questions (continued) 6. What are the two ways of locating Web- based secondary sources? 7. What cautions should you observe when using Google and Wikipedia? 8. What are five other Web-based secondary sources? 9. What tool should you use to locate traditional secondary sources at the library?10. What are the four types of primary sources?

*Chapter 7 presents an overview of critical thinking in designing a legitimate inquiry: askingthe right questions, focusing on essential sources, and evaluating and interpretingfindings. Additionally, the chapter discusses secondary and primary sources and offersguidelines for finding and using them. This chapter (along with Chapters 8 and 9) canserve as the basis for the semesters major writing assignment, either the formal analyticalreport