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My presentation to your class
Quoting from the assignment description distributed by Dr. Davidson:
Students must write a research (8-10 page) paper that offers an answer to one of the course’s core questions. (Note: the paper is NOT a “how to” guide or a list of “pros and cons.”) Most students will benefit from focusing their paper on a specific endurance sport (e.g., ultra running).
- How can we explain success and failure in endurance sports? How important is mental toughness? Genetics? Nutrition? Equipment?
- What are the causes of participation in endurance sports? What motivates individuals to participate in endurance sport? Which kinds of people are more/less likely to participate? Does the kind of sport matter?
- What are the consequences of participation in endurance sports for the individuals involved (mental, physical, financial)? For their families? For society?
See the assignment description for more details, including components of the paper, expectations for layout and formatting, and deadlines.
Tools you can use
Learn the basics of a topic by reading background information (overviews and summaries). Wikipedia is useful for this. You can also use encyclopedias in the Reference section of Simpson Library. I recommend the Encyclopedia of Sports Science:
You can use Quest to search all subjects, or use individual databases to search specific subjects (such as biology or sociology or economics). I particularly recommend this sports database:
Find books using Quest. The majority of our books are e-books, but we also have more than 300,000 books in print. When you find a print book in Quest, use the call number to find the book on the shelf. Here's an explanation of how our call numbers work.
Or, browse the shelves:
- Books about sports are shelved in the GV section on the 3rd floor.
- Books about sports medicine are on the 2nd floor, between RC1200 and RC1245.
The research process
I recommend that you follow these steps to complete your research assignment:
Step 1: Reread the assignment description
- Dr. Davidson has distributed a document that describes the assignment in detail. It includes examples of topics, components of the paper, expectations for layout and formatting, and deadlines. Read this document carefully and make sure you understand it.
Step 2: Find a topic
- Get ideas from your class notes, or from the examples Dr. Davidson provided. Look for things that might possibly make for good paper topics, and then check to see whether each one would be a good topic or not, by doing exploratory research.
- "Exploratory research" means searching broadly just to see what's out there. Some topics aren't well studied, and these topics won't have enough sources for an undergraduate research paper. Look for topics that have plenty of sources. (If there are too many sources, consider narrowing your topic.)
Step 3: Find background information (overviews) about your topic
- Background information doesn't have to be scholarly. Wikipedia is a good source for background information. You can also use the encyclopedias in the Reference section of the library, such as the Encyclopedia of Sports Science.
- When you read background information, take notes! Write down words and phrases that you could use as search terms. If you're lucky, the overview will have a list of citations at the end. Write down interesting citations, too.
- Don't cite background information. Overviews aren't original information -- they just repeat information from other sources. The best way to use overviews is as a stepping stone to sources that provide original information.
Step 4: Find sources
- Search in Quest and/or the databases recommended above. Look for different types of sources. A good paper will include some evidence from primary sources, and will also include some analysis from scholarly sources.
- What should you type in the search boxes? Start by searching for the concepts that describe your topic, but don't stop there! Also try searching for concepts or sources from your notes, to follow the leads that you've discovered.
- Evaluate the sources you find! Use only sources that are high-quality and are relevant to your topic. You may want to refer to the library's Evaluating Resources guide.
Step 5: Read!
- Before this point, you've only been skimming sources. Now that you've identified the best sources, read them closely and carefully.
- As you read, you might come across more leads (new words/concepts, or citations to other sources). Follow these leads! Go back and forth, repeatedly, between reading (Step 5) and using what you read to find more sources (Step 4).
Step 6: Write your paper and cite your sources
- See the UMW Libraries' guide to Citing Resources for more information. Both the library and the Writing Center can help you cite sources correctly.
Basic introduction to Quest
Advice and recommendations for FSEMs in general, and for research into sports, biology, or sociology.
The Citing Resources guide gives you examples of perfectly-formatted citations. Zotero is a free app that keeps track of the sources you've found, and generates citations without any typing.
Use Quest to search the library's physical collection and the contents of most of the library's electronic databases.