Step 1: Choose a topic and find background information
Pick something you’re interested in that falls within the limits of your assignment. You may try browsing through your textbook or through nursing or physical therapy journals or reference books for topic ideas. Reference books can also provide a basic background for your topic.
Step 2: Narrow your topic
Develop several questions that you plan to answer in your paper. You may be interested in pediatric occupational therapy, but what are some questions that interest you specifically? Do you wonder how to approach OT for children with cerebral palsy? Do you wonder if computers can aid in the analysis or treatment of children with motor disorders?...etc.
Step 3: Brainstorm a list of search terms
Think of words and phrases relating to your topic or the concept you are researching. Consider broader and narrower terms, and synonyms (words that have the same meaning). You can look in specialized encyclopedias or dictionaries for help in finding terms that are used in your field of research. Here is an example list of synonyms for three main concepts
occupational therapy / rehabilitation / recovery
cerebral palsy / muscle spasticity / ataxia / cerebellar diseases children / youth / pediatric
computer / computer simulation / software / clinical assessment tools
Step 4: Combine terms by using Boolean operators
When searching the library catalog, databases, or the internet, Boolean operators help you broaden or narrow your search and its results:
Use truncation symbols (usually ? or *) to capture all forms of words (rehab? will retrieve rehabilitate, rehabilitation and rehabilitating).
Step 5: Research! Find different sources to make your paper robust
See guides for Finding Books, Finding Articles, Finding Websites, and Finding Images for more details.
Step 6: Read and analyze the material you find
Evaluate the sources you’ve found, paying attention to their relevance, purpose, value, accuracy, and authors’ credibility. As you start to create an outline of your project or paper, note areas where you need more information.
Step 7: Search again
Research is circular! You may realize that the sources you initially found are incomplete. Perhaps those sources are now leading your research down a slightly different path and you need to alter your research focus. Perhaps you read book and found a citation to a journal article that seems perfect for your paper…time to do a bit more searching!
Step 8: Gather citations for your sources
As you’re doing research, you should write down bibliographic information (author, title, publisher, date of publication, journal name, volume, issue, database used, date you accessed the information) This will enable you to be prepared to create a bibliography or “Works Cited” list.
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