How to Research, an Introduction

Instructor: Rainsong
Date: November 23, 2019 (Saturday)

Seminar: Topic: How to Research, an introduction (suggested by Chiro) — Saturday, 23 November, 2019 at 6:30pm/1830hr New York Time — text format in the PSC #lecture room (Discord) — Instructor: Rainsong, probably — Search LECTURE103

Rainsong: Also, tucking this in here from earlier today, because Whisp had some excellent, concise advice for research for essay-writing purposes:

Chirotractor Today at 1:57 AM yeah no it’s just the research and quotes I need to find like it doesn’t even actually matter what I write it on it’s more of a ‘can you do this form’

Whisp Today at 1:58 AM topic covered well on the internet? ahhh are you persuading, questioning or informing?

Chirotractor Today at 1:59 AM synthesis so a bit of a mix of persuading and informing

Whisp Today at 1:59 AM I like it in that case, you can always fall back on historical reference that which has gone before, illustrates your case but remember, only two examples, then state bias, defend bias Go to wikipedia, type in topic. Dont quote wiki. Go into bibliography, retrieve sources . for persuasion, you need two sources to agree, and one neutral. cite them. 1. your premise 2. back it up 3. your conclusion voila, essay

TehOldeSourcerer: I might be able to check in a few times, have a wedding to attend today so might not be able to participate

Nevyn: Anything’s better than a wedding? :sweatsmile:

Chirotractor: will be aroundish still essaying

Rainsong: Best wishes for good health and prosperity to the couple and their guests 🙂

Rainsong: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen

Rainsong: Welcome to another seminar here at the social club

Rainsong: As usual, we’re discussing real-life skills here, but tonight’s topic is not specific to psionics, per se

Rainsong: Chiro had the clever idea of suggesting basic research and essay-writing.

Rainsong: As you can see above, Whisp offered some advice already.

Rainsong: We’re going to make a bit of a dent into the basic concepts of locating, reading, and using published research (as oposed to conducting primary research, which could be a topic for another day)

Rainsong: “Primary” research is the type in which you yourself are carrying out experiments, or conducting surveys, or the like.

Rainsong: There is a metric flufftonne of information out there, readily available to anyone with an internet connection and / or a library card

Rainsong: Your job is to narrow it down and winnow out the good stuff, for whatever purpose you’re researching

Rainsong: (say, for example, an essay for school)

Rainsong: Start by choosing a topic and what you’re going to do with the topic.

Rainsong: For example, are you trying to determine whether draft horses are good pets for apartment dwellers?

Chirotractor: yes

Rainsong: Compare the merits of three kinds of goldfish?

Rainsong: Describe the breeding habits of African porcupines?

Rainsong: Convince your classmates of the superiority of the political position that all eastern chipmunks should draw a pension after two years?

Rainsong: Or simply describe the focus of published psionics research in the Soviet Bloc in the years 1952-74?

Rainsong: Each of those tasks call for slightly different approaches

Rainsong: Questions or comments so far?

Chirotractor: draft horses are wonderful apartment animals

Chirotractor: especially if you need to take your apartment on the road frequently

Rainsong: As with psionic activities, there are several entirely legitimate approaches to conducting this kind of research

Rainsong: I’m going to describe the one I happen to favour.

Rainsong: Grab a pen and some index cards, or open a note-taking application on your device of choice

Rainsong: If you are using a library, these days your search is probably going to involve a computer search of the stacks, rather than a card catalogue. Or go into the stacks to the appropriate spot and start pulling down books that look like they might be the right topic (“Apartment Stalls for Clydesdales”, “Raising Horses in your Apartment”, “Pet Care: Equines and Camelids in the Home”)

Rainsong: If you can also find a book aimed at primary-school students, it’s handy for an overview, especially if the topic is especially difficult (advanced maths, nuclear physics, and so on)

Rainsong: For online searches, Whisp’s idea of looking atht eWikipedia article, and checking through the references listed at the bottom is a good one

Rainsong: There are also search engines. Try some long-tail keywords, which is to say, search terms that involve several parts. As an example “pet draft horses in apartment flats”

Rainsong: If it’s a more ‘academic’ topic or a briefing paper, try Google Scholar or a university library search, to look for academic articles. Many of them will be behind paywalls, but often the abstract will give you some useful information.

Rainsong: For each book, article, monograph, briefing, and CIA file that looks promising, jot down the citation information on an index card, or in your note-taking app. Number them or use an alphabetical labellings system (“AA, AB, AC, and so on”) either in the corner of the index card or at the front of the citation in your note-taking app. We’ll get to “why” in a moment

Rainsong: So far so froody? Any questions?

Rainsong: Be aware that some sources will not be… how should I put this? … Entirely reliable.

Rainsong: Because of how internet searches work these days, there is a tendency to get echo-chamber-ish, lop-sided results. For some topics, this isn’t so much of a problem. For other topics, it will be. The more controversial the topic, the more suspicious you’ll need to be

Rainsong: Skim through the table of contents of your first book, or through the headings of the first article, for the data you’re looking for.

Rainsong: When you find a useful bit, for or against or neutral-to your position, jot it on a card or in the app. Quote it verbatim in the note, so you’ll know whether you’re quoting it, later. Label the snippet with the label for the citation (AA or whatever) and the page number the bit is from. Example AA-13

Rainsong: Continue along these lines, through a minimum of three reference materials (books, articles, whatever) for a short essay… The longer the piece you’re working on, the more materials you’ll need, strangely enough

Rainsong: If you’re using index cards, arrange them on the floor or table into groups by paragraph or section, and see what you’re still missing, if anything.

Rainsong: If you’re using an electronic note-taking device, copy-paste them into sections in a second document or another section of the document you’re using. Do not “cut” under any circumstances. The closer you are to your deadline, the more likely that you’ll lose the cut piece.

Rainsong: If needed, do a second, more targetted search for the bits you’re missing.

Rainsong: Write yoour draft, flagging any holes in your data or argument, for a possible third search.

Rainsong: Edit, proof, done.

Rainsong: Any questions or comments on recording data for your essay?

Chirotractor: Nope

Rainsong: In determining the likelihood of ….’bias’… in your sources, find out who owns the publication and if they have any restrictions on what may be covered or in what way, in their writers’ guidelines.

Rainsong: Also, if they might have a proverbial pony in the race as to the results.

Rainsong: Research on a medication published by the maker of that drug might not be as reliable as research conducted by a third party, for example (still, check those conflicts of interest clauses and look at what else the writer has written on the topic, if you’re concerned)

Rainsong: Writing an essay on the flu vaccine? Might not want to restrict your sources to facebook and reddit posts by ‘anti-vaxxers’

Rainsong: State of the art psionics research? Look at results from outside the United States, where ‘too good’ results are considered inaccurate by default, in the parameters of the experiments.

Rainsong: Google-translate and similar services are handy for getting the gist of papers in languages you don’t speak

Rainsong: And, the strange syntax can be amusing it its own right 😀

Rainsong: In the actual writing of the essay, write your introduction / executive summary last, and your conclusion right before it.

Rainsong: But figure out what your questin is before you start researching.

Rainsong: The question. Not the answer. The research might lead you in directions you didn’t expect

Rainsong: Questions? Commentary?

Rainsong: By the way, if you have a choice, let the writing sit overnight before proofreading.

Rainsong: And change the font and point-size when you proofread it.

Rainsong: These two tips will catch more typos

Rainsong: If it can’t sit overnight because you’re too close to the deadline, stand up and do some jumping jacks or touch your toes or the like for two minutes. If you can take a fifteen minute break, even better.

Chirotractor: nod

Rainsong: Anything specific to your current project you’d like advice on?

Chirotractor: I’ve got a topic just need to wrangle down some sources

Rainsong: Cool. Incidentally, if a news headline or pop-science site comes up in the search engine, it’s useful to check the sources of the article. You get more good data that way, and the news-writer’s own bias won’t distort things as much. Especially for health-related stories. The actual report isn’t always quite as eye-catching as the headline… but can often be more interesting.

Chirotractor: nod

Rainsong: Thanks for participating 🙂 Let me know if you need any other advice/help

Chirotractor: Thanks

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