STEM Research Paper University Writing Center Cal Poly Pomona
The Research Process in Five Steps • Define and narrow your topic. • Find your sources and evaluate their quality and relevance. • Take notes on their bibliographic information and content. • Organize the material. • Incorporate the material into your paper and respond.
Identifying a Topic Identify a topic: Solar energy Read broadly about the topic Different sources will address the topic in different ways Reading what different people have to say about the topic rounds out your own knowledge of it
Defining and Narrowing a Topic • Pose questions about topic: Is solar energy a viable alternative? Is solar energy cost effective? • If questions do not present themselves naturally, begin research at the topic-level. • If you are having trouble finding a topic, consider using a topic generator.
Sample Topic Generator (Continued) • Once you have defined a topic, pose specific questions about it: - What are you trying to find out? - Are you interested in causes or trends? - Is there conflicting literature? - What are the positive or negative effects? • If you are still having trouble, continue reading at the topic-level.
Which of the following combinations best describe this topic?Conservation of Tigers in India in the Last 10 Years. A) Birds - Disease - State - Decade B) Mammals - Conservation - Nation - Decade C) Mammals - Media - City - Decade D) Mammals- Politics - City - Decade
Which of the following combinations best describe this topic? The Recent Advances in the Last 10 Years of Developing Pharmaceuticals from Toxins Found in South American Poison Frog Skin? A) Frogs - Declines - Nation - Century B) Frogs - Conservation - Nation - Decade C) Frogs – Medicinal Uses - Hemisphere - Decade D) Frogs - Politics - Nation - Century
Create your own research topic using the Topic Generator. Combine one topic from each category.
Stasis Theory • Find the point of dispute within a topic by first finding its stasis: • Fact: Did something happen? Does something exist? • Definition: What is its nature? • Evaluation: What is its quality, degree, or value? • Proposal: What should be done about it?
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Fact: Did something happen? • Is the earth’s climate changing? If so, is it warming up, cooling down, or both? • How and when did these changes start? • What causes them? Are they caused by human activity? Do they happen naturally? • Can they be slowed or stopped? Can they be hastened?
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Definition: What is its nature? • Can these climate changes be defined as global warming or as something else? • How does global warming fit into the other aspects of climate change? How does it fit, for instance, into earlier predictions of an ice age? • What are the different parts of the process of climate change?
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Evaluation: What is its quality, value, or degree? • Is global warming harmful? • Is it right to try to stop it? • Is economic prosperity better than energy conservation? • Which is more important, the short-term health of the economy or the long-term stability of the climate?
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Proposal: What should be done? • Should we try to stop global warming? What will happen if we do nothing? • Should we act to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses? • Should we try to conserve energy? • Should we switch to nuclear power? • Will any of these actions reduce global warming? • Will these actions create other problems?
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Fact: Does something exist? • Does the technology to easily track people or objects exist? • Yes! One such technology is RFID.
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Definition: What is its nature? • What is the nature of RFID? • RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is radio-frequency identification, a method for tracking objects, animals, etc., by means of attached tags which transmit a radio signal. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Evaluation: What is its quality, value, or degree? • Is such technology useful? • RFID makes it easier for people to purchase merchandise, pay tolls, keep track of pets and livestock, check out library books, verify their identity at security checkpoints, gain access to and start their vehicles, and provide medical information during emergencies. • RFID also makes it easier for businesses to control inventory and manage supply chains. Source: Campbell, Anita, et al. RFID Security. Rockland, MA: Syngress, 2006.
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Evaluation: What is its quality, value, or degree? • Is such technology harmful? • RFID systems can be hacked to allow electronic intruders to change prices on products or modify information for entire shipments. One could also steal cars with RFID-encoded keys. • Privacy advocates fear that RFID tags embedded in products will be used to track consumer habits. RFID tags in passports and driver's licenses can broadcast your personal information wherever you are, elevating the possibility of identity theft. Source: Campbell, Anita, et al. RFID Security. Rockland, MA: Syngress, 2006.
Stasis Theory (Continued) • Proposal: What should be done? • Should we continue developing RFID? • Should we limit the use of RFID? • Should we abandon RFID?
A. What is its nature? B. What should be done? C. Did something happen? Does something exist? D. What is its quality, degree, or value? Match the following stases to the questions they ask: Column 1 Column 2 1. Fact 2. Definition 3. Evaluation 4. Proposal
Choose the stage of stasis that matches the following question: Should we institute solar energy on the Cal Poly campus? A) Fact B) Definition C) Evaluation D) Proposal
Choose the stage of stasis that matches the following question: Do nature preserves actually preserve ecosystem functions in North America? A) Fact B) Definition C) Evaluation D) Proposal
Finding Sources • Use the library catalog to search for books. • Use the library databases to search for newspapers, magazines, and journal articles. • Use bibliographies for research leads. • Instead of Google, try using Google Scholar.
Finding Sources (Cont’d.) • Use the library catalog to search for books: www.csupomona.edu/library • [insert image of catalog]
Finding Sources (Cont’d.) • Use the library databases to search for newspaper, magazine, and journal articles.
Finding Sources (Cont’d.) • Use bibliographies for research leads. Radisic et al. 2007
Finding Sources (Cont’d.) • Instead of Google, try using Google Scholar.
Finding Sources (Cont’d.) • If you need help, call the library reference desk at (909) 869-3084 or go to: http://www.csupomona.edu/~asknow
Saving Source Information • Record bibliographic information of all promising sources: Hatze, Herbert. 1974. The meaning of the term biomechanics. Journal of Biomechanics 7: 189-190. • Save to flash drives, in hard copy form, or online through self-sent emails.
Evaluating Sources • Ask the following questions when evaluating your print sources: • Is the edition of the book you are reading current? • Have the journals you are using been peer-reviewed? • What kind of revision and editing process might such print sources have undergone?
Evaluating Sources (Continued) • Ask the following questions when evaluating your online sources: • Are your online sources reliable? • Was the web source you are using posted by a professional writer, organization, or government agency? Or was it posted by a blogger or an amateur writer?
Evaluating Sources (Continued) • What domain names do the websites you are using end in: • .com • .net • .org • .edu • .gov
Evaluating Sources (Continued) • Wikipedia.org • Can be edited by anyone…not very reliable. • Information may be out of date. • Provides citations which can be useful!
Evaluating Sources (Continued) • Wikipedia.org - References
Evaluating Sources (Continued) • Once you determine a source’s reliability, consider the following: • Do sources reflect the question at issue (e.g. “Is solar energy cost effective?”)? • Do sources support your position? • Do they challenge it?
A True Research Horror Story • An actual research assignment for a Cal Poly Biology courseasked students to write an ecological analysis of a California biome. • One student drew on a great deal of information about the plants and animals found in her biome. However, she included no information about ecological interactions, ecosystem benefits, or negative impacts/threats to the biome.
You can only read ebooks on the computers in the library. A) True B) False
You can reach a librarian 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A) True B) False
You should save the text of all clearly valuable sources. A) True B) False
An article on the detrimental effects of fertilizers on amphibian populations will most likely be useful in a paper arguing for amphibian conservation. A) True B) False
The Note Card System • In the past, the most common method for students doing research was to annotate and organize source information on note cards. • Bibliographic information was recorded on 3x5 cards. • Quotes, paraphrases, summaries, and ideas on 4x6. • Once students had collected enough notes, they would • Sort the information by topic or issue • Arrange it in different ways • Develop it into a paper
The Copy-and-Paste Method • Today most students copy information from articles that are either posted online or collected in databases. • They then paste this information directly into their papers.
The Copy-and-Paste Method (Continued) • This method makes sorting and manipulating information more difficult. • Also, the risk of plagiarism increases when information is not filtered through a system that annotates, organizes, and breaks down material.
A Strategy Similar to the Note Card System • First, collect all notes (including bibliographic information) in a Word document. • Then, experiment with arranging notes in different ways: • Organize material by sub-questions on the computer. • Color code according to topics. • Cut printed pages into smaller fragments of information and arrange.
Copying and pasting information from online sources into a Word document is an effective note taking strategy. A) True B) False
A good way to digest the information and make it your own is to… A) …organize material by sub-questions on the computer. B) …color code according to topics. C) …cut printed pages into smaller fragments of information and arrange. D) All of the above.