The golden rules of doing research based on 25 years of teaching online research and critical thinking/analysis:
1. Don’t know anything when you begin to research.
2. Use “primary sources” for your first hunt into the topic you wish to research. (A primary source is a person or persons who have experienced and/or studied the topic for the most length of time and who have first-hand knowledge of the topic. And, who are not biased because of money or other political pressures.)
3. Narrow the conflicts (every topic has conflicts) down to the most reasonable arguments on BOTH SIDES.
4. Read and “dive deeply” into both sides of the argument and determine which side you wish to support, knowing full well you’ll have to acknowledge the best arguments of your opponent(s).
5. State what you want to support and why in a single sentence.
6. Write down any potential or real biases you have about the topic and get rid of them (religious, family, personal experience, etc.).
7. Do your final research, with an unbiased approach, looking for “relevant” evidence on both sides and putting the articles into your own words for later citations. Only use direct quotes to highlight or emphasize a key point being made. Most of your final papers will be in your own writing “voice.” In argument, your written voice should be very close to your speaking voice.
8. Be certain to give your opponent’s best arguments and address them as best you can, giving credit when credit is due.
9. Create a Works Cited page made of mostly first-hand, primary sources. Secondary (journalism, encyclopedias, and other second-hand sources) should be use sparsely to make your points.
That’s it! Twenty-five years of teaching in one lesson. Cool beans. Go forward and prosper in the wacky world where we now reside.