Doing Exploratory Research

Doing exploratory research is included here with the prewriting techniques because library research often is a way to generate ideas. As you review the literature on a subject or read in a particular area, you may note ideas that will help you get started with the writing.

We also describe research here because of its part in the transition from prewriting to writing. If you decide that research is needed, you should begin it before you create the final version of a thesis and write an outline. Often, research provides information that can help you formulate a thesis or controlling idea. Research can also give you good ideas for brainstorming, freewriting, and keeping a journal, all techniques, as you know, that will help you overcome barriers to writing. Many times, what you learn from course materials is not enough for formulating a controlling idea. You often have to do some research just to be able to articulate an opinion.

For example, in a technology management course, you may learn that the average time for completing an engineering project is two years. To encourage critical analysis, your teacher may offer examples that both prove and dispute this claim. Your writing assignment may be to propose several methods for shortening the average time. You realize that research will be needed, first, to confirm the average development time, and, second, to discover methods for shortening this time. From your research, you will eventually be able to propose several methods for shortening the time, based on case studies you uncover and even interviews you have with project engineers.

To learn more about research, refer to chapter 4 "The Research Process," chapter 5, "Academic Integrity and Documentation," and chapter 6, "Using Library Resources in Research and Writing."