Be Open to Serendipity : Researching Your Topic

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Be Open to Serendipity :

Cultivate serendipity. Experienced researchers know the value of lucky accidents and stay alert for them, glancing at the titles of books shelved right next to the ones they are seeking or running their eyes over the table of contents in the issue of a periodical that contains an article on their prepared list. Unplanned breakthroughs in research investigations can be prompted by conversations, by media broadcasts or news stories or by casually skimming materials in the library, in a bookstore or on the Web. The key is keeping your mind open to the unexpected source. Your best piece of information may be one you stumble onto while you are looking for something else.

You may also want to join electronic discussion groups relevant to your topic, particularly if you can find a group that's highly focused - for instance a group that is conversing about a new kind of insulin pump for diabetics might contribute valuable, up-to-date information. Such groups can give you useful names and references. But the interchange on discussion groups can also be discursive and trivial, not worth your precious research time and many professors look at information derived from discussion groups with a pretty skeptical eye unless it is well supported from other, more reliable sources.

To continue the section on
Researching Your Topic,

Set up a general search strategy

Use primary and secondary sources

Do original research

Make a research outline for using the library and the Web

Find things out for yourself

6. Be open to serendipity

Take notes

Manage sources and quotations

Manage and evaluate electronic sources

Successful Writing Index

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