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CMNS 144 - Technical Writing and Communications for Mechanical Engineering: Getting Started

Keywords

The reality of searching for information today is facilitated through the use of "keywords" or "keyword phrases". 

The English language is far from perfect, a word can have multiple meanings, professions establish their own lexicons and it is not always easy to identify the keywords or phrases that an author may have choosen to use.

An important skill to develop is how to identify and test keywords and phrases.  Many of the research databases and journals that are available through the OC Library come with search aids such as subject indices's, thesauri, controlled vocabularies, etc  Some research databases include features that suggest keywords, subjects and allow you to limit or expand your searching to specific database indexes or data qualities (i.e., data range, keyword in title, subject, type of publication, etc.)

Always keep your eyes open when evaluating information that you may discover -- through critical analysis of the information you will be able to identify new keywords, phrase and concepts that can lead you to the information you seek.

Before You Start

Before you race off and start searching

Choose an appropriate subject and you have properly limited..

    • It is appropriate if it appeals to you
    • It is acceptable to the intended reader (your instructor)
    • It is limited if you can efficiently and effectively write about idea(s) in the length of the paper your assignment requires

    Do not try and write a essay on the impact of steam engines on the railway industry in the mid-20th century. Rather, llimit your thesis to the impact of oil fired steam engines on the Canadian Pacific Railway in the mid-20th century.

    Establish Your Research Paper Thesis

    Your research paper thesis is the central idea/ arguement that you wish to present.

    Developing a report outline.

    1. It will get you focused
    2. It will help contribute to the unity of the composition 
    3. Result in a better organized paper 
    4. Important details / arguments that you want to communicate to the reader will be more clearly understood 
    5. You will be better prepared to search out and discover the information you require  
    6. You will be better prepared to discuss your information requirements with others 
    7. Knowing the right question to ask is ¾ of the work to finding the right answer 
    8. It will save you time in the long run

    Prepare an Outline - Example 2010 Games

    Thesis:

    The actual cost of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Village have yet to be identified and as result are creating a stress related situation the public, VANOC, the City of Vancouver, Governments of BC and Canada.

    Introduction:

    Because of the economic downturn in the world economy the original funding plan for the Olympic Village was no longer viable.  A new funding plan needed to be developed.  As a result, at this point in time actual final costs of completing the Olympic Village are not known.

    Background: 

    Information on the original financing proposal

    Information on how the financial downturn impacted the original financing proposal

    Current Situation and Analysis:

    The Olympic Village needs to be completed

    The City of Vancouver is ultimately responsible for ensuring this

    The City of Vancouver needs to raise financing

    To do this required the BC Government to amend the City of Vancouver Charter to allow them to borrow money

    The City of Vancouver is now actively involved in identifying new financing

    The public is worried that they will have to pay more for the 2010 Olympics

    Conclusion:

    As of yet no final financial figure is available that identifies the actual cost of the Olympic Village for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

    Reference List / Bibliography

    What support information do I require?

    Where will I search for this information?

     

    Manage Your Citations Online

    Reports vs. Thesis

    Report

    The subject and purpose of your paper is organized around the views of other authors

     

    Thesis

    You are presenting hard empirical evidence to support your research hypothesis

     

     

    Transforming Your Outline Into a Search Strategy

    In developing your plan you should start asking yourself a number of questions:

    1. Where would I find the information I need
    2.  Do I need a Book? 
    3. Do I need a Scholarly article? 
    4. Should I interview someone? 
    5. Who else has written on this subject?
    6. Is there a government ministry, department, etc. with responsibility for this area? 
    7. How much time do I have? 
    8. How will I know if the information I discover is up-to-date and authoritative

     

    Scholarly Information

    1. Authority – Is the information authored by experts with credentials and / or scholarly or professional affiliations? Look for author information such as advanced degrees and university affiliation, past and current positions in industry, government, etc.
    2. Publication – How is the information published? A magazine is slick and glossy with many advertisements. Magazine articles are just a few pages. There is little author information in magazines. Peer-reviewed journals are not slick and have few advertisements. The articles tend to be long with tables, graphs, and data. The article will have several sections such as literature review, methodology, results and conclusions. Does the article have a bibliography, endnotes or footnotes? Almost all scholarly publications (e.g. books and articles) will have citations. Is there an editorial board and instructions on how to submit articles?
    3. Source – Is the information from a Peer-Reviewed Journals, Books, Theses/Dissertations, Statistical Data Sets, etc.
    4. Less Scholarly Sources -- Some sources that are less scholarly and do not have as much high quality academic information should be evaluated independently on the basis of authority, publication, and source. For example, Magazines , Newspapers, some aspects of the Web, etc.

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