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Research papers allow students to showcase their writing abilities and critical-thinking skills, as well as demonstrate that they thoroughly understand course objectives. Research assignments come in many forms, from short essays to semester-long projects and mandatory capstone experiences. Most research papers require that candidates draw from multiple resources to develop and defend an original analysis or argument. In times past, research involved poring over stacks of books and periodicals to find primary and secondary sources. The internet, however, has brought many different types of information to a wider audience and made data more readily accessible. By simplifying the research process, the internet makes it easier than ever to inform and support a thesis argument.
Students must still create a comprehensive source catalog, taking careful notes along the way, and keep up with relevant developments in the field.
While hunting down scholarly documents or vital statistics have become less complicated, the skills needed to conduct thorough, thoughtful MBA research haven't changed. Students must still create a comprehensive source catalog, taking careful notes along the way, and keep up with relevant developments in the field. Often, the first step of any research project proves most difficult for students: deciding on a paper topic. In this guide, we will explore a variety of valuable online resources, including specialized search engines and databases, that may prove useful once you've established your theme.
Using Google for Online Research
Developed by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998, Google is a simple search engine that receives more than 86% of the world's internet searches. Ranking internet pages based on the most current information, use of key terms, and site trustworthiness, Google's robots provide the most relevant results pertaining to any given topic. Simple keyword changes or limiting search parameters may return sources more closely related to research topics for MBA projects.
Refining Your Search Results
Google allows users to filter searches according to media type, including or eliminating results such as web pages, images, videos, or news articles. You can narrow your search returns by providing additional terms, or search for a specific phrase by placing it in quotation marks. Use “or” to find references for similar terms, or exclude terms by placing a “-” before it.
Google also features several search shortcuts, which you may access by typing a command into the search bar followed by a “:” and your chosen search term. Do not include a space between the colon and search term. Commands can restrict a search to a “daterange” or find “related” pages. Using the “site:” command allows you to search within a specific site. This feature may be especially helpful if you have identified a source that contains multiple volumes of relevant material. Simply search for your keyword, followed by the site shortcut and domain. For example, typing "certification site:nationalbusiness.org" into the search bar brings up all certification information on the National Business Association's website. Add ".gov" or ".edu" to search only sites with those domains. In addition, the “cache:” command searches sites that are no longer online.
The advanced search tab allows you to narrow search results without using shortcuts. Using this tab, you may apply multiple filters to a search, limiting responses to pages in specific languages or from certain regions. The advanced search tool also lets researchers find current information from cutting-edge sources by targeting a specific date or time range.
While the Google Scholar homepage may resemble the Google you know, this specialized search engine is used to access scholarly resources. Google Scholar's ranking algorithm measures how frequently an article has been cited in other research, author credentials, and original publication sources. To be included in the search results, a hosting website must be considered scholarly, and must not contain pop-up ads or require readers to scroll past numerous ads or click additional links. At the very least, readers must be able to access a paper's abstract without creating an account or subscribing.
The search engine offers several content personalization options. By adjusting the Google Scholar Preferences, you can search articles, case laws, or documents published in many different languages. In addition, students who link their university library account to Google Scholar gain access to any subscriptions or services available through their home institution from any location. Users may link up to five libraries and passwords, although installing a library proxy may be necessary. Your institution's library services department can provide further assistance.
Although many Google search tips and tricks also apply to Google Scholar, the academic service offers unique Scholarship Search Tips for finding the most up-to-date studies and data. These search tools allow researchers to view recently published papers and sort them by date and relevance. To gain more relevant and targeted results, try exploring the works cited in a paper's reference section, or search documents that cite the paper you've found. You may also wish to set up email alerts, so that Google Scholar informs you when new and relevant articles become available.
Both Google and Google Scholar offer a broad spectrum of research tools. However, some topics may require you to perform original analysis using raw data. Online databases aggregate open-access or government data on almost every subject imaginable, including business-related statistics and information. Some sites offer free or reduced subscription rates for college students.
- AMiner: This academic network contains materials from more than 6,000 conferences and 3.2 million publications, and features over 700,000 researcher profiles. Users can contact experts in a variety of fields and explore research papers and conference recordings.
- BASE: The Bielefield University Library in Germany maintains this vast database of more than 120 million academic documents, most of which are freely available through open access sources.
- CGP: The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications allows researchers to explore electronic and print documents from all three branches of the federal government. The database provides direct links to any documents available online.
- CIA World Factbook: The Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook offers encyclopedic information on 267 nations and entities, including history, maps, type of government, communications, and demographic data.
- ERIC: Operated by the Institute of Education Sciences, the Education Resources Information Center serves as a clearinghouse for educational data. The ERIC collection includes a list of journal publishers, literature and book sources, and online submissions that meet the Institute's rigorous academic standards.
- iSeek Education: Amassing authoritative resources from university, government, and non-commercial entities, this database adds several hundred links each week. iSeek reviews all resources to ensure that they comply with the site's standards.
- National Archives: This database serves as the public access portal to more than 2 million documents stored in the National Archives' electronic records archives.
- OCLC: Offering open access to over 50 million records from more than 2,000 authors, the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting is a premier source for scholarly digital content.
- CORE: CORE aggregates research published in academic journals around the world; particularly those supported by tax funds. The site seeks to make scholarly papers available to the public, as well as academic institutions and researchers.
For MBA Students
- D&B Global Business Browser: Formerly known as OneSource, this database includes business and contact information for more than 18 million companies in a variety of industries. Available data includes financial reports, news, and business analysis. While users must sign in to explore content, many university libraries provide access to the database.
- Statista: Serving more than 1.5 million registered users, Statista follows key metrics in over 600 industries. The subscription-based site provides statistical data gleaned from nearly 22,500 sources, assists with research and analysis, and analyzes consumer behavior.
- Mergent Online: Mergency subscribers receive access to company descriptions, history, subsidiary information, and corporate financial statistics, as well as daily updates. Site tools allow users to develop customized presentations and reports.
- Business Source Complete: A premium subscription provides access to 2,100 active, peer-reviewed business journals and magazines related to management, accounting, marketing, and finance.
- Lexis Nexis: This curated online collection of business news, legal documents, and public records draws from nearly 40,000 sources. Researchers use the site's extensive news archive to study trends and gain context for current news.
- Value Line Investment Survey: Along with financial data pertaining to thousands of publicly traded stocks, funds, and other securities, this subscription-based site offers students and researchers unbiased analysis, projections, and commentary.
The internet puts volumes of information at your fingertips, with a single Google search returning thousands of potential data sources. MBA online research projects, however, require accurate information drawn from reliable sources. Some sites may feature out of date or incorrect data, or an author may skew statistics to support a particular viewpoint or sell products. It is crucial to carefully evaluate each online source before citing it in your work. Georgetown University and the University of Chicago Press offer the following tips to help you find quality sources for your research projects.
Who Is the Author?
Does the site identify the author? Search for the author's credentials, looking for curriculum vitae or resume information. Does he or she possess the educational background or professional experience that qualifies them to write authoritatively on the subject? How have other experts in the field received their work? Has their work been cited in peer-reviewed research or journals?
What Is Its Purpose?
Why was the article written? Does the author write for an academic or scholarly audience, or is the piece geared toward the general public? Does it explore a particular research question? Determine if the article seeks to inform, sway readers to accept a specific opinion or policy position, or to advertise a product or service.
Does It Look Professional?
A website doesn't need all the latest bells and whistles to provide trusted data, but careless spelling errors, use of profanities, poor grammar, or multiple broken links cast doubt on a site's reliability. A site should be organized so that additional, supporting information is easily available.
Is It Objective?
While authors may be passionate about a topic, high-quality sources strive to present factual information impartially, and without using emotionally-charged language. In addition, you may wish to explore the website's sponsoring organization. Does it hold a commercial, personal or ideological purpose that could potentially impact the way an author presents facts, or which facts he or she includes?
Is It Current?
How current is the provided information? If a piece is several years old, has it been updated it with the latest information on the topic, or has the author abandoned the article or site? While older data may still be relevant, approach abandoned sites with caution.
What Sites Does It Link to?
Reputable sites share the sources of their data and information. Do the links to those sources work? You should evaluate each of those sources just as you do the original site. Sites ending with .gov or .edu and databases that aggregate academic journals subject their sources to rigorous peer review processes.
Organizing Your Research
As you comb through dozens of datasets and academic articles, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by so many links, notes, and charts. Organization is even more critical when you're working on a group research project and sharing information with others. Developing a system of collecting and recording data makes it easy to retrieve information when you need it, and helps save time and frustration later on in the writing process. Below are a few tips to help you organize your MBA research materials.
- Keep Articles Together: Gather all your articles and data in one place. Depending on your preferences, this may require printing articles for a physical file, or establishing a virtual file online or on your computer.
- Take Notes: Quickly scan articles and data, taking notes and organizing each source according to theme. Notes can help you refine your thesis by identifying the best sources related to your selected topic.
- Track Ideas: After reviewing several different sources, start brainstorming with a list or mind map. Mind mapping is a free-form technique used to visualize and explore relationships between ideas.
- Create an Outline: A detailed outline organizes ideas in a logical order that supports your thesis. Developing an outline also helps you identify any research gaps that may require additional evidence or data.
- Organize References: Tracing bibliography information makes it easier to cite sources as you write. Below are several free and subscription-based online services that store, format, and export citations to your word processor.
Online Tools to Manage Your Research
- EasyBib: This web-based service allows researchers to easily incorporate bibliographies and citations in their writings. The free version supports Modern Language Association citation style, while individuals with a paid subscription may format citations in any academic style.
- Endnote: Using Microsoft Word, this academic social network makes it simple to manage references and integrate citations. While basic services are free, paying subscribers subscriptions may collaborate with other users.
- Mendeley: Mendeley stores datasets and lets students organize references, read selected passages, and cite online sources with ease. Ideal for group projects, the site's centralized communication feature provides collaborators with an effortless method of sharing references.
- RefWorks: This web-based reference management service offers access to curated collections and generates custom and standard citations. Users may collect, import, and share online sources, or export information to word processing programs. Many university libraries maintain site subscriptions.
- Zotero: This free, open-source program keeps bibliography information easily accessible and exports formatted citations. Zotero also features advanced search functions, allows users to tag references, and provides both web-based and offline access.
Citing Online Resources for MBA Students
Most MBA research projects require students to explore and expand upon ideas previously developed by established scholars. Citing these authors or sources helps readers understand how you came to your conclusions or arguments. Using proper citations also ensures that you uphold your school's academic policies. Even unintentional plagiarism can impact your scholastic career, and may lead to penalties such as failing grades, suspension, or even expulsion.
Common citation styles include the Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association (MLA) style and the American Psychological Association (APA) style. Ultimately, the individual professor determines which style should be used in a research paper. However, business courses often use APA style. The following examples demonstrate how to cite several kinds of online sources in the APA style.
- Wallis, J. (1987). Employment, Politics, and Economic Recovery during the Great Depression. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 69(3), 516-520.
- [mastrgamr]. (2013, April 15). PBS Presentation: The Great Depression [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQ_lizW5zSI
- Johnston. M. (2017, March 14). The Economic Effects of the New Deal. Investopedia. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011116/economic-effects-new-deal.asp
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