Before Writing: How to Research for Any Kind of an Essay Paper like a Pro!

Before Writing: How to Research for Any Kind of an Essay Paper like a Pro!

researching for essay writing

Essay writing, even the mere mention of it, scares the hell out of many of us. And, if there's really a hell, then the devil must be making tortured souls write essays for eternity! But does essay writing have to be so hard a task? You may say "YES" for now since I haven't yet shown you how to do research for an essay like a pro!

Five years ago, I struggled with essay writing, literally! I would spend long days in the library researching for academic papers and, after the lengthy rummage through various books, journals and articles, I would sometimes get out of the library with a bunch of unnecessary information which would not assist me in my essay writing. Writing a five page essay used to be a real task to surmount and I would take a full day and sometimes two to have it down my throat. If that sounds like you now then continue reading on.

But today, thanks to the research experiences I have gained through years of pain, I can write like a pro! To say that I can comfortably write up to twenty (20!) pages of a research paper per day sounds hyped but believe me, that's the much I can write today!

You too, by learning the research techniques that make retrieval of information easy peasy, can do the same. Let's cut the long story short and dive straight into the various research techniques you can use to ease your pain of researching for and writing academic papers.

Technique #1: Use Academic Search Engines

Despite the fact that there are a bunch of academic search engines online, many researchers are still unaware of this fact and they end up being memes in their research. But, to research for your paper like a pro, academic search engines are the number one must haves in an arsenal of any research paper writer. And by academic search engines, I do not mean "Google" and "DuckDuckGo"! Here's a breakdown of the most useful academic search engines that a scholar can use to carry out their online research:

Refseek

This is one of my favorite research tools and which I must use for any given research paper. To search using this tool, just load their website which is found at www.refseek.com. You may choose to search the web or search for documents by selecting one of the two options before continuing. Next, type in your search query and press "ENTER" for the information to be retrieved.

A quick scheme through the retrieved results is bound to give you one collection of the most powerful resources for your reference. What will interest you about Refseek is that this website filters out all the .COMs and .NETs bunch of websites which your professor likes calling "non-academic sources". Therefore, if you've ever fallen in trouble with your professor for using academically incredible sources (into this later) in your essay, refseek will make sure that such an incidence never happens again! Try it out yourself.

refseek-research-engine

GoogleScholar

I love GoogleScholar and rightfully so! This one is from Google but, unlike Google search engine, it doesn't present to you unnecessary information of websites trying to market products to you. For example, when you search for the term "access to healthy foods", Google and GoogleScholar present the following juxtaposed information below. Supposing you were researching for an essay and need truthful information and peer reviewed studies to retrieve your information from, which of the two sets of information presented would you go for? I will leave you to judge.

Apart from presenting to you reliable and credible information, GoogleScholar also gives you an option of automatically citing the resource presented. Therefore, you will not spend your time trying to figure out how to correctly cite a source - just click on "cite" below a result in GoogleScholar and voila!

The fact that GoogleScholar also shows you how many other sources have cited the presented source means that you can also so easily judge the importance of a particular source. It is common sense that a source which has been cited multiple times has substance to present.

Screenshot #1: Search Using Google

researching for academic paper using google

 

 Screenshot #2: Search using GoogleScholar

researching using googlescholar

 

Educational Resources Information Centre (ERIC - eric.ed.gov)

Without much ado, let me state that this is my best tool when it comes to finding only peer reviewed sources for two reasons! The first reason is that it allows you to filter by checking the "peer reviewed only" box! And, if you are like me, the peer reviewed sources are the first to consider before anything else. Secondly, ERIC is a fully-fledged database that organizes information based on the time they were published, which allows me to filter for those essays which my professor instructs me to use "sources published not more than 6 years ago".

peer reviewed research using ERIC

Here's a brief summary on how to research for your essay using ERIC:

  1. Load the ERIC website using the address eric.ed.gov and you will be presented with a search window shown above.
  2. Type in your query in the search field. Since most probably you are researching for an academic paper, I would recommend that you check (tick) the "peer reviewed only" checkbox (these are what your professor loves!). You can also check the "Full text available on ERIC" checkbox since you don't want to be presented with only partially available information.
  3. Click the search button and there you are! A list of extremely powerful resources is presented to you with another filtering option, the publication date!
  4. Using the left side menu, filter appropriately using the date the presented resources were published if your research requires you to use sources that fall within a specified period of time. Otherwise, sample all the resources presented to you.
  5. To have a sneak preview of the articles presented, click on the blue hyperlink of a particular article. To read full text, click on the "Download full text" link on the right side menu (full text articles are mostly presented as .pdf files).

 

eric-researcher-screen

Technique #2: Use FREE Online Libraries

When it comes to free online libraries for research, the possibilities are innumerable. A general misconception has been in the air for the longest time that all online libraries have to be paid for. Apart from those online libraries that specifically belong to your institution that you can use free of charge, there exists a myriad of other FREE online libraries. The following is a brief breakdown on each of these immensely powerful yet so rarely known online libraries that you can use to carry out research for your next essay assignment:

Bookzz.org

bookzz.org-screenshot

With over 50,000,000 (fifty million!) scientific articles and 2.5 million books for free, bookzz.org brags as the world's largest eBook library. It is one of those places you can, using a simple search query, find and download electronic books free of charge! 

And it's not a joke! Try searching for any term on the bookzz.org website then scheme through the various results presented. Find what interests you then proceed and download it. This is one of those websites that I find extremely helpful when for example, my professor asks me to present the written essay plus the digital copies of any sources used for information retrieval.

Openstax

Although still struggling to get out of its infancy, Openstax's star proves to shine through the future. This is an organization which believes in helping students become who they want by allowing them access to the very necessary academic material.

Therefore, Openstax has become one of those places that one must peek into whenever in search for materials needed in writing. At their website, one can easily access Math, Science, Social Sciences and Humanities books among other fields and subjects. You can also find books for Advanced Placement (AP) courses here. It is imperative to mention that this is one of those websites that one can download the books which interest them at will (the books are downloaded in .pdf formats).

Wattpad

As they say on their website: "Whatever you're into, it's all free on Wattpad: the world's largest community for readers and writers" Wattpad truly lives up to its word. This is a fully-fledged online library that has a multiplicity of story books on a plethora of fields.

A sign-up into their website immediately takes you into a world of action, fiction, fanfiction, science fiction, Werewolf, horror, humor, short stories and any other genre of stories you might think of. Therefore, if you are a literature student looking for a poetry or adventure story book to research and write about, you will find this website extremely helpful with the kind of information it presents.

After coming so far, you may now take a break. That's how cool I am :)

typing essay

Had enough rest? Let's go on...

Technique #3: Research within Organizational or Foundational Websites

You probably already know that organizations or foundations are those institutions that sideline themselves towards dealing with a single, usually major issue. For example, American Psychological Association (APA) is an organization that majorly deals with "advancing creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives." For your information, that is a direct quote from their mission statement.

It is a common knowledge that, an organization such as APA will do all it takes to present, as accurately as possible, all the information with regard to Psychology. The same applies to any kind of an organization that is serious about its existence and operations.

It is therefore, accurate to say that any information presented by credible organizations such as APA or World Health Organization is highly credible. Such holding true, it becomes easier for us to drive our point on research home. Any research done within an organization's website, so long as it is related to a researcher's topic, holds much water for credibility. Learn to do research for argumentative essays, persuasive and factual essays within organizational websites and you will never go wrong a day. Because that, my friend, is researching like a pro!

To intrigue your thoughts a bit on how real organizations look like, here are top 10 examples of organizations within whose websites you can research for reliable information to use in your writing:

  1. World Health Organization (WHO) - Deals with all health related information and lists recommendations for the right approach. Research within this website for truthful, reliable health-related information.
  2. United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) - Deals with alleviation of suffering to and ensuring well-being of children. In case you are researching about children, this website becomes extremely handy.
  3. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - This is another branch of UN that deals specifically with environmental issues. You start being a meme when you are researching about environmental issues and deliberately avoid considering this organization's website which I'm sure harbors a horde of statistical data and facts about the environment.
  4. Children's Defense Fund (CDF) - A strong, effective, independent voice for all the children of America. You know what to research for on this organization's website.
  5. Human Rights Watch (HRW - hwr.org) - Defending human rights worlwide. You again know what kind of information to look for on this organization's website.
  6. Doctors Without Borders - Medical publications, Humanitarian issues, Medical issues, Medical research... You know right what kind of research will take you to this organization's website.
  7. Alzheimer's Association (alz.org) - This is pretty self-explanatory again.

I could go on and on listing hundreds of organizations that are well known to deal with specific issues in our real world but clearly, there is no need. You now know that when researching for an essay, organizational websites can form a credible source for reliable information. That's why we are saying that possibilities are limitless!

Technique #4: Use Wikipedia!

Wait, did I just read that right? Yes, and rightfully so! I am going to go against the many advices you will find online that you should never use Wikipedia to carry out your academic research. What you should rather do is starting rather than ending with Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, in as much as it is considered a collection of write-ups not written by professionals in given fields, can be used in a right manner to carry out research for academic papers and I am going to show you how shortly.

First, Wikipedia can give you ideas that will enable you to expand your research. But how exactly? Let's look at some of the results that we get from Wikipedia when we search it for the term "access to healthy food". Here we go:

wikipedia search results

I want you to take a closer look at the phrases and words I have boxed. These are the keywords and phrases that I call true gems when it comes to researching my topic! Searching for these keywords and phrases using previously mentioned search engines, I am bound to gather even deeper information about my research topic. The third boxed result shows that this is an organization that is so related to my research topic. If you remember what we just said about researching on organizational websites, then this is nothing less of a goldmine!

Secondly, if I don't want to trust the information given on a given Wikipedia page (or at least I don't want to cite the source from Wikipedia - it is a "non-academic resource"), there's somewhere I can always look at and that is the references section for a given topic!

Using the search above, I just clicked on one result which looked interesting and got to its page. Since I don't want to trust information on Wikipedia, I will head straight to the references section of this page. Look at the examples below:

references section on a wikipedia page

Now look at the pointed results! It all of a sudden dawns on you that you got more than enough resources to research your topic from.  So, instead of wondering how you are going to start off your research and thinking that Wikipedia is out of bounds, stop right there! Head straight onto your browser and load Wikipedia to get started on your research.

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