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Brainstorming and Searching for Sources
Last week you chose a final project topic and began the research process. This week you will narrow your focus and find some preliminary sources.
Make sure you read and incorporate your instructor’s feedback on your Milestone 1 submission. You will receive a grade and feedback by Thursday of Module 2 at the latest.
Begin by reading pages 2.11 through 2.13 in the webtext and then begin the steps below.
The first step to brainstorming is to harness your brain’s energy around a topic (aka create the “storm”). Many professional writers do this by freewriting about a topic for a set amount of time. This helps exercise your writing muscle and broaden your thinking on your topic. For this exercise, set a timer for 10 minutes. During this time write down anything that comes to mind about your topic. Don’t stop until the timer goes off! You don’t need to worry about proper spelling or sentence structure, just think broadly, pose questions, wonder, consider, and write what you already know about your topic. Think about the facts and questions you posed last week and how your instructor responded to them. You can choose to do this with a pen and paper or on a computer. You don’t need to submit this step with your finished product so feel free to experiment.
For example, if my topic choice is climate change my freewrite might look something like this:
I chose climate change as my topic. I don’t know much about it; but I know that when people say climate change they really mean warmer temperatures on Earth, sometimes it’s called global warming. I have heard that sea levels are rising and the ocean is getting warmer. This is causing ice caps to melt. What is causing it? The article I read last week talked about greenhouse gases and fossil fuels. Does everyone agree that climate change is happening? I don’t think so. Sometimes you hear on the news that politicians or TV personalities talk about climate change being made up, I’m not sure if that’s true. It seems like when you hear scientists talk about it they’re more certain that it’s a problem. Why does it seem like everyone talks about climate change as a problem but nothing ever actually changes? I think electric cars are a good idea but too expensive for me to buy, I wonder how they can bring them down in price so more people will switch from gas. I saw that movie that Al Gore made about global warming, but I don’t remember what it was called. Are alternative energy sources like wind farms and solar power really enough to make a big change? What are other countries doing? What would it take to end climate change entirely at this point or is that impossible?
The end result might be a mess! It might look nothing like the example above. That’s ok! The purpose of this activity is to get your thoughts out on paper so you can begin to filter and narrow them.
See the Milestone 2 Template for examples of each of the steps below:
The next step is to use your freewrite paragraph to help narrow your area focus. The topic choices from Module 1 are too broad to cover adequately in a short research paper, so you need to find one subject or idea within that topic. Pull out the important ideas from your paragraph that could be useful directions of focus. Aim for at least 5 different ideas to pull out and list in bullets.
As you’ve been working on this you may find that certain ideas are standing out to you as more intriguing avenues for research. Now, pick one of these ideas and write one to two sentences describing your narrowed topic.
Next, underline at least 4 phrases or words in your 1-2 sentence description. Then, for each underlined word, come up with at least two synonyms, abbreviations, acronyms, or alternative terms to describe it. You can use a thesaurus (Links to an external site.) to help you with this. This step is crucial to finding useful sources to use in your paper because the sources you’re looking for may not appear if you search for one keyword but will appear with another.
The synonyms now give you a great list of keywords to use to search the Excelsior College Library for sources.
For this stage, we will NOT be using Google or other internet search engines to find sources. It is important to first understand how to effectively use our Excelsior College Library to find appropriate, scholarly sources. While you can find these types of sources through a Google search as well, you often have to search through and distinguish between many inappropriate sources as well. In later weeks, we’ll learn more about assessing the validity of information on the internet.
For now, begin by going to the Library Homepage (Links to an external site.) and using the OneSearch tool. Try several combinations of your keywords and synonyms to see what types of sources come up. Tip: view Library searching tips and tricks (Links to an external site.) and try using search tricks like AND, OR, *, or “ ” to change your results.
Then, find at least 5 sources that are relevant to your topic. They can be books, journal articles, encyclopedia articles, news, and periodicals, etc. These may not end up being the final sources you use for your paper, but they are a good way to get started.
In your list of sources, make sure to include the URL (use the Library's Permalink button to generate a stable URL (Links to an external site.)), the author (if there is one), the title of the article/book, and date. It does not need to be in proper APA format yet, but you are encouraged to practice this skill since you’ll need to use it later on in the course. * Note: Not all source types require a URL in APA format, but make sure to include one for this assignment so your instructor can view your source if needed.
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