This section discusses the basic techniques for locating and collecting published information for use in a report. As with all research projects, you must plan carefully: you must develop a search strategy review reference  material, and record your findings .

Develop a Search Strategy

With its thousands of books and periodicals, the library can be a bewildering place. The problem is to locate the relatively small number of sources that you actually need. To do so, you need to plan your activity in the library The trick is to  You must find out what to look for and where to look. To develop a strategy, determine your audience, generate questions, and follow search guidelines.

Determine Your Audience

As in any writing situation, you must determine your audience and .their needs. Are you writing for experts? Will they already understand the concepts in the report? Will they use your report for reference or background information, or will they act on your  findings? If you are writing a seminar paper for an upper-level class,your audience – the teacher and seminar members – will expect a highly technical paper. Since none of them, perhaps not even the instructor, will know as much about the topic as you do, you will have to lead them into it gradually. You -will therefore build a base of definitions, then expand into a detailed technical discussion .

Generate Questions

You will facilitate your research if you generate questions about the topic and its subtopics. It is helpful to ask these questions both before and air you continue your research. These questions are the same for library research as for interviews. You need to ask the same kinds of questions – about basics and about significance:

What is it made of?

How is it made?
What are i4 major divisions?
Who uses it;?
Where is it used?
Where is it made?
What is its history?
Do experts disagree about
any of these questions?
What are its causes?
Who makes it?
What are its effects?
What is its future?
How is it regulated?

Such questions .will help you focus your research, enabling you to select source materials and to categorize information as you collect it.

Follow Search Guidelines

The guidelines given below will help you find relevant material quickly.

Consider the Age of the Information

Because of the length of the publishing process, the information in books is often a year or more old and can be out-of-date. The information in recent periodicals (magazines and newspapers) is usually much more current, only several months old.  Some data bases contain even more recent information. If you need the most recent information, look in periodicals and full-text data bases (if you have access to them). If you need well-established information, use books.

Consider the Technical Level of the Information

If you need information at a high technical level, use technical journals, interviews with professionals, and even sales literature. On the job, you would also use technical reports from the company’s technical information department. If  our need general  use popular magazines and newspapers. Books can provide both  and general information.

Watch for Key Documents

 As you collect articles, review their bibliographies.Some works will be ‘cited repeatedly. These documents, whether articles or books or technical reports, are They contain a discussion that experts agree is basic to understanding the topic. To
research efficiently, you should find and read these documents early in the process.

Find Key Terms

 Key terms are the specific words or phrases that all writers in a particular field use to discuss a topic~ You need to recognize them and master their definitions since these terms are central concepts for your topic. You can find more about these terms in specialized encyclopedias, the card. catalog, periodical indexes, abstracts, and data bases. Writers will repeat them in their articles. These terms will also lead you to other useful  for instance, in cross references and in indexes.

Review Reference Aids

To locate ideas and material, you can use all of-the following reference aids encyclopedias, traditional card catalogs, computerized catalogs, periodical indexes, abstracts, and data bases.

Read Encyclopedias in Your Field

Encyclopedias can frequently serve as points of departure. They give background information, and many of their articles contain bibliographies giving sources of more specific and detailed data. As brief introductions, they provide basic frameworks for research topic A$ you read an article in an encyclopedia, you  often find the standard terms and subdivisions of your topic. Learning those terms and subdivisions will enable you to use indexes and data bases more efficiently.

As a professional need and use the specialized encyclopedias
in your field. To list all these would take much more space than is
available here. A representative sample includes:
Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology
Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
Encyclopedia of Chemistry
Encyclopedia Of Chemical Process Equipment
Encyclopedia of Electronics
Encyclopedia of Flagellate
Most fields have specialized encyclopedias. Learn the encyclopedias ‘in
your field and consult them regularly.

Use the Card Catalog

The card catalog lists every book in the library. For each book, the catalog contains (1) an author card, (2) a title card, and (3) one or more subject cards, as shown in Figure 5.1. Except for their main headings, the cards are exactly alike. If you know how to read a card, you can glean important information from it. When you start to search for information, you can use subject cards to find the books available about your topic. Think of subject words under which you might find pertinent information; then examine the cards in the subject section of the card catalog. In Figure 5:1, the subject card is titled “population.” Subject cards are heavily cross-referenced so they often refer you to another subject, as here you are referred to pollution and human ecology. While the cards contain much information, several items are especially helpful. The call number explains where the book can be found on the shelves. The author’s name gives you a clue to other possible sources. To see if he  she written other books that might be useful. check the author . year of publication is important if rapid advances are being made-in the subject. The bibliographic notation tells you if the book contains a bibliography, which could lead you to additional sources of information.

Use the Computerized Catalog

Instead of card catalogs, m<tny libraries now have computerized catalogs, which users access through a computer terminal. These systems show the catalog Californian t ion on screens, which the user accesses by keyboard, following usually simple instructions shown on the screen.
Given on pp. 93-94 arc four screens from a computerized system. igure 5.2 shows a sample circulation screen. Note the author, title, and publisher information on the top half, and the call number and shelf  on the bottom half.


Author, Title, and Subject Cards

shows a bibliographic screen that describes the book in detail. This screen .notes that the book has a bibliography and points out relevant subject headings. Figure 5.4, an author bibliography screen, lists other books by the same author. Figure 5.5, a subject bibliography screen, lists the three books contained in the library under the subject heading “Packaging Research.” Notice, however, that the search line names only “Packaging.” (The system actually listed over 50 subdivisions of Packaging, cataloging hundreds of books.)



1. CALL#: KF1665.83

Circulation Screen
Source: Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Used by permission.




Author Bibliography Screen

Source: Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Used by permission.


AUTHOR: Container Corporation of America.
TITLE: An approacl to packaging I
DATE: (197-?)
AUTHOR: James, Theresa A.
TITLE: Thermal case for De’ Monte juice bars
DATE: c1984_
AUTHOR: Anderson, Paul ‘N.
TITLE: Refregerated distribution model
DATE: c1984.

Subject Bibliogrrphy Screen
Online Computer Library Center, . Used by permission.

A major advantage of the computerized catalog is that it almost instantaneously gives the writer a working bibliography. For instance, if you typ., subject] Population,” the computer will respond with a complete list of Population categories in the card catalog: Population – Demographics; Population – Major Cities; Population – Minority Statistics; Population – History of U.S. Census; or whatever. If you select one of these categories, the computer will list all the available books. . . To use the system effectively, the user must use accepted subject headings.
Since most of the systems are keyed to Library of Congress headings, you can use the two-volume Library of Congress  Headings to find lists of accepted subject headings. an entry from  » (2: 2323-24). The boldface word , “Packaging”) is used in  catalog. If you enter it into the computer, the system will respond with a list of books on that subject. Notice that the other symbol’s will help you find the correct subject heading:

see also related headings that may be used in the catalog. xx other related subjects. – subdivision of the boldface heading; in the catalog they appear
after the  old face head: Packaging – Law and Legislation.
See – use this heading instead of the one directly above it.


Aluminum in packaging
. Child-resistant packaging
Cigarette package labels
Container industry
subdivision Packaging under subjects,
e.g. Confectionery – Packaging
xx Advertising
Color in advertising
Law and legislation (Indirect)
xx Consumer protection – Law and
See Packing research

Use Periodical Indexes

Periodical indexes will help you find magazine articles in the same way that catalogs assist in locating books. Periodicals are published for all technical areas, and as mentioned earlier, they are especially good sources for keeping professionals informed of innovations in their fields. You should become familiar with the indexes that cover periodicals in your field. The following are a few of the many periodical indexes for technical subjects:

Applied Science and Technology Index: subject index to articles in technology, engineering, science, and trade, including the areas of automation, construction, electronics, materials, telecommunication, and so forth
Business Periodicals Index: subject index to articles in all areas of business, including automation, labor, management, finance, marketing, public
relations, communication, and so forth  Cumulated Index Medicus: subject-author index to articles that deal with bio medical topics Engineering Index: subject-author index to publications of industrial organizations, government, research institutes, and engineering organizations; includes annotations (descriptions) of the articles Index to U.S. Government Pericdicals: subject-author index to publications
of more.than one hundred agencies of the United States government; includes information on hundreds of technical topics Microcomputer Index: subject index to articles about microcomputers; includes lists of authors, companies, and products; also includes descriptive abstracts  work the same way: they list articles beneath subject headings, as Subheadings appear beneath many subject  headings to identify more specific areas of information. The subheadings(not shown in Figure 5.7) beneath “Diffusion” include “Computer Simulation,” “Mathematical Models,” and “Tables, Calculations. e plains the firs an article on diffusion by M. Jason and recent development in periodical indexing is a computerized index like  The vendor company, sells the library a large compact disk that is attached to a special computer. The disk contains thousands of article titles. These titles can be accessed by key words such <IS chlorofluorocarbons or After you type in the key word, the computer lists all the relevant titles. These titles of articles are updated regularly so you get the most recent information available. These computerized indexes contain the same information as the regular paper copy of the in.

Applied Science & Technology Index

Source: Applied Science & Technology Index, Copyright © 1986 by the H. W. Wilson Company. Material reproduced with permission of the publisher. dexes. Their value is that they contain several indexes so you don’t have to search each index individually.

Use Abstracts Hundreds of abstracting services provide information about journal articles in particular fields. These abstracts are generally descriptive rather than informative; that is, they state the scope of articles but do not summarize them. While they do not serve as substitutes for the articles, they do allow you to reject inappropriate articles immediately. You should become familiar with the relevant abstracting services in your field. The following is a brief list of technical abstracts:

Aeronautical Engineering Index
Chemical Abstracts
Engineering Abstracts
Geological Abstracts
Metallurgical Abstracts
Mineralogical Abstracts
Abstracts of Instruction and
Research Materials
Abstracts of Health Care
Mal/agemel/t Studies
Agrictliturai Index
Current Packaging Abstra~ts


Explanation of Entry from Applied Science’   Index Source: Applied Science & Technology Index. Copyright 1 Company. Material reproduced permission 1 the publisher. Through computerized data bases, you can identify l sources  to .lour topic.” A data base is a collection of information on a specific-subject. Usually the data base is a huge annotated bibliography.

If you access it correctly  will list the relevant articles on a

particular subject. You then have a y without the
time-consuming labor of searching volumes of abstracts and
Data bases are particularly helpful f. r oi lining current information; sometimes entries are available with in appearance in print. Since data bases are accessed by phone, us n)’ a modern, they are expensive; the costs include the phone line charge a service access charge, often figured in fractions of a minute. A typical charge is $100 an hour or $1.66 a minute. At those rates you need to prepare carefully and  before you access the data base. 1 here are three kinds of data bases: full-text, bibliographic, and statistical data base will provide you with an exact copy of the article you are  This type of data base, often used by financial managel’s, is useful for keeping abreast of important developments in a field. Bibliographic data bases provide the researcher with publication data – and often with abstracts of articles on a certain subject. Statistical data bases provide economic data and financial profiles of companies.

The bibliographic d ta base is probably the most helpful for student researchers. To access this type of data base, you provide subject words – called descriptors – which are sent from your computer terminal, via a telephone line, to the data-base computer. The data-base compute” all the articles that contain your descriptor words in the title. Depending on your commands, it will tell you how many articles ·it has found, display entries and abstracts on the screen, and print out the bibliography. To search a data base effectively, you must choose your descriptors carefully. If you pick a common term, say “manufacturing” or “packaging” or “retail,” the computer might tell you it has found 10,000 items. To narrow the choices, you need to combine a term like “packaging” with descriptors
like “plastic” and “microwaveable.” It will then search for titles that contain those three words and will present you with a much smaller list of perhaps 10 to 50 items. To make a search meaningful, you need to become adept at choosing descriptors. Although some companies publish lists or present them on a “help” screen, many do not. Data bases provide information on almost every topic. The followin gpartial list (Dialog) presents subject areas on the left and the data bases that contain jnformation about them on the right.

Business Economics
Energy and Environment
Materials and Science
Medicine and Biosciences
ABlIL.WORM,Chemical Industry Notes,
Investext, Foods AdLibra, BLS Labor
Force, U.S. Exports
CA Search, Paper Chern, Sci Seuh.h
American Men and Women of Science,
Career Placement Registry/Student
Aquaculture, DOE Energy, Pollution
Abstracts, Waternet
Nonferrous Metals Abstracts, Textile
Technology Abstracts, World Textiles
Embasg, International Pharmaceutical
Abstracts, Zoological Record
BI1RAFluid Engineering, Geoarchive,
Mathfile,Microcomputer Index, Standards
,1I1dSpecifications, Weldasearch

Record your Finding

As you proceed  with your search strategy, you must record your findings. To do so, you. take notes, consider using visual aids, and decide whether to quote or paraphrase important information.

Make Bibliography Cards

As you find potential’ sources of information in the card catalog and periodical indexes, list them on separate 3- by-5-inch cards. These bibliography cards should contain the name of the author, the title of the article or book, and facts about the. book’s publication. Record this information in the same form that you will use in your bibliography. Also record the call number and any special information about  the source, for instance that you used a microfiche version. Such information will facilitate finding the source at a later date.

 Take Notes

After completing your bibliography cards, go directly to the sources to begin reading and taking notes. On each card, write the topic from your paper that this material supports. On every card, write the author of the work and the page number from which you are recording . information. Each card should contain notes on a single subject and from a single source. This practice may seem like a waste of cards, but it greatly simplifies arranging your notes when you finally organize the report.

Make Visual Aids

Visual aids will enhance your report. Remember,  you are presenting complex, advanced information, and visual aids willhelp your readers comprehend it. You have two sources of visual aids: those that you find in your research and those that you create. If a key source has a visual aid that clarifies your topic, use it, citing it as explained in the Documentation Appendix (pp. 441-459). As you read, however, be creative and construct your own visual aids. Use flow charts to show processes,
tables to give numerical data, drawings to explain machines – whatever will help first you, and later the reader, grasp the topic. The process of constructing them will help you clarify your ideas. Of course, you must refer 10 and discuss each visual aid in your text. Chapter 7 discusses visual aids in more detail.

Quoting and Paraphrasing

Two important skills for writing  research reports are knowing how and when to quote and paraphrase. Quoting is using another writer’s words verbatim Use a quote when the exact words of the author clearly support an assertion you have made or when they contain a precise statement of information needed for your report. Copy the exact wording of.

  • definitions
  • comments of significance
  • important statistics

Paraphrasing means conveying the meaning of the passage in your own words”~Learning to paraphrase is somewhat tricky. You cannot just change
a few words and then claim that your passage is not “the exact words” of the author. To paraphrase, you must express the message in your own original language. Write paraphrases that.

  • outline processes or machines
  • give illustrative examples
  • explain causes, effects, or significance

Whether you quo te or paraphrase, you must cite the source (both in the text and in the bibliography). When you write reports, you must present your quotations and paraphrases in the accepted manner. The rest of this section explains some basic rules for quoting and paraphrasing. Complete rules for documenting sources appear in the Documentation Appendix (pp. 441-459). All of the examples are based on this excerpt from Cosmos, by Carl Sagan. The Cosmos was discovered only yesterday. For a million years it was clear to everyone that there were no other places than the Earth. Then in the last tenth of a percent of the lifetime of our species, in the instant between Aristarchus and ourselves, we reluctantly noticed that we were not the
of the Universe, but rather lived on a tiny and fragile world lost in immensity and eternity, drifting in a great cosmic ocean dotted here and there with a hundred billion galaxies and a billion trillion stars. We have bravely tested the waters and have found the ocean to our liking, resonant with our nature. Something in us recognizes the Cosmos as home. We are made of stellar ash. Our origin and evolution have been tied to distant cosmic events.    When you quote, you place quotation marks before and after the exact words of the author. Usually you precede the quotation with a brief introductory phrase:

According to Carl Sagan, “For a million years it was clear to everyon  that there were no other places than the Earth” (318). If you wish to delete part of a quotation from the middle of a sentence, use ellipsis dots: Sagan points out that “in the  last tenth of a percent of the lifetime of our species
we reluctantly noticed that we were not the center and purpose of the Universe” (318).

If you wish to insert your own words into a quotation, use brackets: Sagan feels that “in the last tenth of a percent of the lifetime of our species, in the instant between Aristarchus [a Greek astronomer] and ourselves” (318), we have realized the Earth’s position in relation to the rest of the Universe. When you paraphrase, you rephrase the passage using your own words. Be sure to indicate in your text the source of your idea – the author and the page number (in parentheses) on which the idea is found in the original: According to Sagan, in the last several thousand years humankind has dramatically revised its opinion of its place in the Universe. While once people claimed earth was the center of the universe, now many see it as a very small part of a large, complex system. However, the very immensity of the universe, like the immensity of the ocean, seems to call people forth to discover both it and themselves (318). Remember, when you quote or paraphrase, that you have some obligations both to the original author and to the report reader.

  1. When in doubt about whether an idea is
    credit to the “author.
  2. Do not quote or paraphrase in a way that misrepresents the original
    author’s meaning.
  3. Avoid stringing one quote after another. This strategy, while often
    requiring great care to implement, is hard to read.


To research effectively you must ask, then answer, questions. You must ask basic questions and questions about significance. Both types will generate information about your topic, often leading you to new question Five methods for finding answers to your questions are by interviewing, surveying, observing, testing, and using the library. To interview, you ask individuals for information about a topic. You must prepare questions, ineluding probes that will cause you to ask more questions. To survey  you ask a group of people to respond to written questions. You must prcp’:He questions and an answer form that is easy to tabulate. To observe. you watch a situation in action, looking for repeated actions and basic facts and their significance. To test, you cnmpare two items in terms of some criterion or set of criteria, for instance. how easy it is to use the enlarging function of two brands cf photocopiers. Library research is a key method of finding information. As with other research methods, writers must first devise questions, then find answers. To find answers, you must know how

to use encyclopedias, card catalogs, indexes, abstracts and data bases. To be effective, you must take notes as you read.


  • Name the basic fact or problem that you perceive:
  • Who thinks that this topic is important?
  • Who would be interested: in this’t~pic? What is the nature of their interest? General curiosity? Professional involvement? .What is inter:esting about the topic?’
  • What ,are the implications of the topic? For instance, could a reduction in.refrlgeration.(the topic) affect the ozone layer (implication)?
  • List three questions that you want to hate answered about this topic.
  • How c’a.n you find information about this topic?
  • Who has the- information that you need? Are there people in the office that you can talk to? experts who publish their information?
  • Do you need to read? interview? surveyjsome combination of the three?
  • List the eicps you will follow to fil:t! the iniormation,
  • Include a time line that estimates the number of hours and days you wiU,.. .need for each step. ,
  • What fO~?nwill you use to record the iniormaiion you discover?
  • Pay special attention to this if you interview or survey. Should you construct a response form on which you can record answers?
  • Look for indexes and abstracting services that list articles on your topic.
  • List kCl)words that describe your topic.
  • Create a working bibliography – a list of authors and their works that .
  • you think will provide helpful information.
  • Read the useful publications, taking notes ill the form of quotes and paraphrases.


  1. Write a report in which you analyze and evaluate an index or abstracting service. Use one that is in your field of interest, or ask your instructor to assign one. Explain which periodicals and subjects the service lists. Discuss whether or not it is easy to use. For instance, does it have a cross-reference system? Can a reader find key terms easily? At what level of knowledge are the abstracts aimed? Beginner? Expert? The audience for your report will be other class members. Your objective is to help them with their research topics. Write a memo in which you analyze and evaluate a reference book in your field of interest. Explain its arrangement, sections, and intended audience. Is it aimed at a lay or technical audience? Is it introductory or advanced? Can you use it easily? Your audience will be other class members. Your intention is to help them with their r=search projects.
  2. Examine Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory or The Standard Periodical Directory in the library. Each lists the periodicals published for all fields.  Select three periodicals in your area of interest and inspect several  copies of each. Then write a memo report. Analyze and evaluate the periodicals. Discuss length of articles, intended audience, and article style. Which periodical is most helpful for a student research project? Why?
  3. Divide into groups of three or four. Construct a 3- or 4-item questionnaire to
    give to your classmates. Write an introduction, use open and closed questions, and tabulate the answers. At a later class period, give an oral report on the results of your questionnaire. Use easy topics that inquire about the class’s demographics (size of native city, year in college) or else their level of knowledge of some common area in a field chosen by the group (recycling one-liter plastic soft-drink bottles).
  4. Form small groups of three or four, based on your major or your interest in a
    particular topic (for instance, solar heating systems, aspartame,  set plastics, diesel engines, industrial organization, just-in-time manufacturing). Discuss the topic briefly to formulate questions about the topic. Examples might be “What kinds of processes are used to make that?” “How will this new technology affect the workplace?” “What are the opinions of experts on this topic?” “00 the experts disagree? If so, how?” Once you begin to explore, you will generate many questions. Select two questions from the list. Use  library resources to find articles that contain the answers to those questions Then write an informal report in which you explain the answers you discovered
    in the articles you read.


  1. Write a short research report explaining a recent innovation in your area
    of interest. Use at least six recent sources. Use quotations, paraphrases, and one of the citation formats explained in the Documentation Appendix
    (pp. 441-459). Organize your material into sections that give the reader a
    good sense of the dimensions of the topic. Some kinds of information
    you might present are
  • Problems and potential solutions regarding the development of the innovation
  • Issues debated in the topic area
  • Effects of the innovation on your field or on industry in general
  • Methods of implementing the innovation

Your instructor might require that you form groups to research and write
this report. If so, he or she will give you a more detailed schedule, but you
must formulate questions, research sources of information, and write the
report. Use the guidelines outlined in Chapter 2.


Applied Science and Technology Index 74.2 (1986): 68.
Dialog Information Services. Subject Guide to Dialog Data Bases. Pablo Alto, CA.
Dialog, 1984.
Library of Congress. Library of Congress Subject Headings, 10th ed. 2 vols. Washington:
Library of Congress, 1986.
Mad land, Denise. Presentation. U of Wisconsin-Stout. 26 March 1986.
Miller, Tim. “Increasing Your Business I.Q. with On-line Data.” Popular Computing
o«, 1985: 57 +.
Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. New York: Random, 1980.



You collect information – or find answers to your questions – in a number of ways. You can interview, survey, observe, test, and read. This section explains the first four. Collecting published. information,’ especially in a library, is treated in a later section.


One convenient way to acquire information about a topic is to conduct an information interview. Your goal is to discover the appropriate facts from a person who knows them. To conduct a profitable interview, you must follow this process:

  • Prepare carefully.
  • Maintain a professional attitude.
  • Probe.
  • Record.

Prepare Carefully

To prepare carefully, inform yourself beforehand about your topic. Read background material and list questions you think will produce helpful answers. If you are  to ask about photocopiers, for example, read about. them before you interview anyone. If you do some reading, you will be in a better position to understand the significance of the answers you receive. You also need to make a list of specific questions to ask. If you don’t, you may not receive all the information you want. It is easy to get off on tangents or to misappropriate time, perhaps by dwelling too long on side issues. A list will help you gather all the information you need and will allow you to pace yourself. To generate the list, brainstorm questions based on
the basic questions and Significance questions listed above. To interview someone about the photocopier problem, you might ask How exactly does the photocopier malfunction?

Has that happened before? How often?
What happened just before the copier was used?

Maintain a Professional

Attitude When you interview someone, you should maintain a professional attitude. Schedule appointments for the interview beforehand. Set the context by explaining why you need to find out what they know. Be polite. Be sincere. Ask your questions as if the answers you seek are important. Most people are ppy to answer questions
for people who treat their answers seriously.

Be Willing to Probe

Most people know more than they say in’ their initial answers. You must be able to get at the material that’s left unsaid. To do so, you probe by using three common probing strategies: Ask open-ended questions.

  • Use echo technique.
  • Reformulate.

The basic probe strategy is to ask an open-ended question. These questions produce answers that you can investigate further by using the other two strategies. Echo technique means to repeat significant words. Suppose an interviewee said, “Red really messes up a print run.” In this case, an echo technique question would be “Messes up?” Almost always this technique will produce a longer, more specific answer. Reformulating means to repeat in your own words what the interviewee just said. The standard phrase is “I seem to hear you saying ” If your reformulating is accurate your interviewee will agree, but if it is wrong, he or she will usually point out where.

Record the Answers

As you receive answers, write them down in a form you can.use later. When you prepare a list of questions, put them. on an 8V2 x 11 sheet of paper, leaving enough room to record answers. When  you record answers, write legibly and try to avoid just listing terms .and abbreviations. Ask people to repeat if you didn’t get the whole answer written down. After a session, go over your notes to amplify them so they will be meaningful later and to discover what you still don’t understand so you can ask more questions.


To survey is to ask people to supply written answers to your questions. You would use a survey to receive answers from many people, more than you could interview in the. time you have allotted to the project. Surveys can help you determine basic facts or conditions and also the significance or importance of facts. Surveys have three elements: a context-setting introduction, closed or open questions, and a form that allows you to tabulate all the answers easily.
A context-setting introduction explains (1) why you chose this person for your survey, (2) what your goal is in collecting this information, and (3) how you will use the information. The questions may be either closed or open. The answers to closed questions are easier to tabulate. The answers to open questions can give you more insight into the situation. A general rule about survey questions is to avoid questions that require the respondent to research past records. or to depend heavily on memory.
The form you use is the key to any survey. It must be well designed. Your goal is both to make it look easy to read (so people are willing to respond) and to make it easy to tabulate (so you can quickly tally the answers). For instance, if all the answers appear at the right margin of a page, you can easily transfer them to another page. Here is a sample survey using the photocopier problem.


In the past two weeks we have had many complaints about Context-setting how difficult the new photocopier is to operate. In order to introduction reduce frustration, we plan to develop a brief manual and to hold training sessions. To help us choose the most effective topics, would you take a moment to fill in the attached survey? Please return it to Saul Sch webs, 150 M Nutrition Building, by Friday, January 30. Thanks.

How often use the copier?                          Closed question


Do you use any of these functions:             Closed question


Do you know how to do the following:       Closed question


Please describe your problems when you use.the machine. Use the back of this sheet if you need more space.

Is there any topic you especially want”us to cover? Are you available at any of the times below during the week of 2120-2125 for a training session? Give first and second preferences.


How much notice do you need so that you can attend a training session?

1 day
2 days
1 week

Observing and Testing

In both observing and testing, you are carrying out a questioning strategy. You are interacting with the’ machine or process yourself.

Observing ” Observe is watching intentionally in order to discover the elements in a situation. You place yourself in the situation to observe and record your observations, WI!en you observe in order to ,collect information, you do so with the same questions in mind as when you interview:

  • What are the basic facts?
  • What is their significance?

To discover more about the office photocopier problems, you could learn a lot simply by watching people use the machine. You would notice where people stand, where they place their originals, how carefully they read instructions, which buttons they push, how they read the signals sent by the control panel, and so forth. If you discover that all steps move along easily except reading the control panel, you may have found a possible source of the complaints. By observation looking in a specific way for facts and significance  you would find the data you need to solve the office problem.


To test is to change elements ill a situation, to notice any differences, and to record the results. Testing, of course, is the heart of many scientific aile tprhnical disciplines.· As such, it is much broader and more complex than this discussion of it. Nevertheless, simple testing often is a useful method of collecting information. Before you begin a test, you must decide what type of information you are looking for. In other words, what questions should the test answer for yoy? You must formulate these questions, devise your test, and then record the answers. Suppose you had to decide which of two brands of photocopiers to buy. Before buying one, you might test both on a trial basis. You would first determine – probably through interviews or surveys – the questions you want answered. These questions should reflect the users’ concerns.

Typical questions might be..

Which one produces 100 copies faster?
Which one has better clarity?
Which one generates more heat?
Which  option is easier to use?
After you determine suitable questions, you have people use both machines
and then record their answers to your questions. To record the answers,
you will need a recording form, much like the one used for surveys.
If many people are involved in the test, you might want to survey them all
to collect the best possible data.



The basic skill of research is knowing how to ask questions. The answers to the questions are the facts you need. This section will explain how to discover the questions to ask and how to formulate them.

How to Discover Questions

To learn about any topic from the role of chlorofluorocarbons in ozone layer destruction to which photocopier to purchase for the office – you must ask questions. But what questions to ask? To formulate your questions you need

  1. Ask basic questions.
  2. Ask questions about significance.
  3. Consult the right sources.

Ask Basic Questions

Asking the right questions will help you learn the basic information about your topic. Basic questions include.

  • What are the appropriate terms and their definitions?
  • What mechanisms are involved?
  • What materials are involved?
  • What processes are involved?

Ask Questions about Significance

Questions about significance are those which help you see the broad purposes and the context of your topic Questions about significance include.

  • Who needs it and why?
  • How does it relate to other items?
  • How does it relate to current systems?
  • What is its end goal?
  • How do parts and processes contribute to the end goal?
  • What controversies exist?
  • What alternatives exist?
  • What are the implications of that answer?

Consult the Right Sources

The right sources are the people or the printed material that have many of the facts you need. People who have the facts can answer your basic questions as well as your questions about significance. You approach such people for one of two reasons: to find out what they know or to find out what they need. An engineer, an experienced
user, a salesperson – all have facts about the photocopying machines. People who already use the product have some sense of what they need. They know what they expect a photocopier to do, and they know the condition that must be met to achieve those results. You may also consult printed sources for information. Printed sources can answer basic questions and questions of significance, often more thoroughly than people you ask.

How to Formulate Questions

There art} essentially two kinds of questions: closed and open. A closed question generates a specific, often restricted answer. Technically a closed question allows only certain predetermined answers: Closed question How many times a week do you use the copier?

An open question allows a longer, more involved answer: Open question Why do you use red ink? In general, ask closed questions first in order to get basic, specific information.

Then ask open questions to understand the subtleties of the topic. That sequence, however, is almost impossible to follow rigidly.

Good questioners constantly switch back and forth between the two modes. If they hear a term they don’t understand during the answer to an open-ended question, they ask for a definition, essentially a closed question. That definition could lead to a new open-ended question.



The purpose of research is to find out about a particular topic which you have perceived, and which has significance for you. Your topic is a fact that has reached your perception. Topics can be broad general ones, such as the development of plastic oil cans, or they can be narrow specific ones, such as your office’s need to purchase a new photocopier. The topic must have some significance. If your company manufactured plastic oil cans, could you make more profit? If the office obtained a new photocopier, would the office system run more smoothly.

Once you have realized its significance, you need to discover all you can about your topic. To discover new information, you research. Usually your research has a particular goal: to solve or eliminate some problem. The information or data – turned, up by your research will allow you to solve the problem. Sometimes the research attacks the problem directly: How much does a photocopier cost? What functions must it perform to help the office? Sometimes the research is more indirect: What is an effective arrangement for the room that contains the photocopier? The answer to that question might provide a basic framework to assess the most appropriate model for your office to purchase. Or you might discover information about heat or electrical needs or work flow that would cause you to purchase a different model from the one you initially had selected.




Researching an issue in order to write a report is an essential part of professional life. On the job, peop1e research everything from how high above the floor a computer screen should sit to how feasible it is to build a.manufacturing plant. When you start a research project, you enter a challenging and rewarding process that culminates in a written . document. Like a detective, you begin to search out facts. Your first attempts will often yield little or nothing  or even contradictory information. But as you continue to collect data, you will eventually discover the  patterns in and the significance of the data. The more you conduct research,the more you will stretch your perceptions and your investigative skills. This c~apter discusses the purposes of research, the essential activity of questioning, and practical methods of finding information.