After you find topic you must learn more about it. This involves tending Reading, and summarizing (in written form the relevant professional literature on you topic. Reading and thinking about what others have done and said will teach you to see whether another enterprising individual has already done your study. A related benefit is that you can speed hours avoidingwriting anything at all by sitting in an armchair and Reading.
Locate relevant literature
Literature relevant to you research comes from journal articles, books, book chapters, and the internet. You may also want to examine conference papers, unpublished theses, and doctoral dissertations.
Each of these literature sources contains a large collection of information, however. What are effective waysof sorting through them to extract material most relevant to your particular topic? Several traditional and some more technologically sophisticated methods provide vehicles for locating relevant literature. Although none of these is perfect, using all of them together will ensure a reasonably comprehensive literature search. Before starting your search, there are two important suggestions toconsider: a) Rely on primary sources and b) avoid the popular press.
Use primary sources
Look up the original articles (primary sources) and read them yourself. Do not rely solely on others’ descriptions of studies and their findings, often referred to as secondary sources. Reviewers too often cite studies erroneously, indicating the authors said something they did not say or did something theydid not do. We know-our own Word has been cited to support points that opposed the very stand we were taking in the article being cited! In addition, you may not agree with others’ conclusions about the paper. Now is the time to stand on your own intellectual feet and draw your own conclusions. We are not saying there is no value in Reading others critiques of original papers. This is best doneafter Reading the original work yourself, however, and then considering whether you agree with secondary source’s opinions.
What if you cannot find the original article because it is in an obscure, difficult to obtain or was presented at a conference but not published? Do not cite the article as though you actually read it. Instead, follow American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines toindicate citation of a secondary source (e.g., “Foster, 2000, cited in Cone, 2005”).
Avoid the Popular Press
Although Time magazine, Wired, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and similar sources may be excellent ways of learning what is happening in the world, they are no substitute for scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals. The same is true of many Internet sites, where the source andaccuracy of information can be even harder to discern. Although the information in popular periodicals may be accurate, you cannot evaluate it as you can a journal article in which the methodology is transparent, delineated clearly enough for all critique.
Information in Internet sites can be tricky because the sites are so variable. At the one extreme are sites created by individual hobbyists who havea point of view to express. At the other are sites where bona fide scientific organizations provide information compiled by groups of scientists based on current literature. Therefore, evaluating Internet information is critical. Is the site authored by an expert, and therefore similar to a book chapter or review of the literature? Or are the source and the autor unclean? Stick closer to theformer and stay away from the latter, at least as a source of reliable and valid information.
Identify Key Authors and Journals
A good initial step in compiling relevant literature is to locate key players in your research are and their favorite publication outlets. Who are the Big Names? What journals regularly publish their work? Other who knows the area better than you do are good sources of...