#2 Researching your answer

This Bite focuses on the research stage. We’ll highlight some of the things you need to think about when selecting your sources, and we’ll look at how you go about  taking a critical approach at this early stage in the essay process.

 

Researching your answer

Once you’ve broken down the question (see Essay Bite 1), you’re able to begin carrying out your research. The first step should be to brainstorm your ideas. The aim here is two-fold:

  1. To identify what you already know about the topic and to begin to think about your position in relation to the question
  2. To identify the gaps in your knowledge

Armed with the answers to these two questions, you’re well placed to carry-out focussed and efficient research for your essay. We won’t go into detail on how to search for resources here – the Library and Learning Centre can help you with this if you feel it’s a skill you need to improve. Do be careful about the type of source you use though and evaluate them carefully. Be particularly careful when drawing upon websites. It’s not to say there aren’t good quality online resources out there – quite the opposite in fact, there’s a wealth of good material on the Web. But there’s also a lot of poor quality or dubious material out there too, so be sure to evaluate such material carefully before deciding it’s reliable enough to go into your essay and remember, in many subjects academic journals and published books should be the bread and butter of your research. Be open-minded too about looking for other kinds of source – depending on your subject area, you may find things like videos, documentaries and many other forms of media are valid sources of information.

Keep an open mind at this stage but do be critical. As you read about the topic, ask yourself if you agree or disagree with the points being made, and why. You may find it useful to think about the paragraph structure we suggest for the main body in Essay Bite 5 as you begin to gather your evidence together for your essay.

When you pick out a quote or piece of evidence that you think might be useful for your essay, stop and ask yourself why. What point or argument does this evidence help you to make? If you can’t answer that question, ask yourself again whether it really is useful evidence for your essay. This process helps you to think critically not only about the evidence you’ve found but also the arguments that will go into your essay, adding depth to your thinking and writing.

What you should be left with is a well-rounded understanding of the topic and a good sense of where you stand in relation to the question, as well as a good deal of evidence with which to support your arguments. If you’ve carried out effective research, you’ll probably wind up with lots of material and will need to make a decision on what best to include and which of your nonetheless relevant material will fail to make the cut. That’s where the planning stage comes in, and that’s where we’re headed in Essay Bite 3.

What you should be left with is a well-rounded understanding of the topic and a good sense of where you stand in relation to the question, as well as a good deal of evidence with which to support your arguments. If you’ve carried out effective research, you’ll probably wind up with lots of material and will need to make a decision on what best to include and which of your nonetheless relevant material will fail to make the cut. That’s where the planning stage comes in, and that’s where we’re headed in Essay Bite 3.

Updated on 30/08/2021

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