We provide articles on our website as helpful sources of information for potential investors. Evidently, these have also been helpful for students of Islamic finance. We've received a high demand for help with homework assignments. This article is for students who reach out to us for help with their studies. We hope the tips below will be helpful during your studies.
1. Finding Good Sources
Step one when undertaking any research project is locating your source materials. Your local library was the gold standard for finding reliable sources of information beyond your textbook for generations. But in the modern information age of today it is entirely possible to acquire all of the sources necessary from the comfort of your own home or office. Search engines such as Google provide a quick and efficient way to narrow down your search for relevant bodies of work. The key, however, is knowing how to properly use these tools to return useful and reliable results to your searches.
Sure, you could simply type your questions into the search bar, and hit ‘enter’. You could painstakingly search through all of the results. But, there's a better way. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your search engine!
Search Engine Tips & Tricks
- Use a colon (:) to search within a specific site. Example: "sukuk:blossomfinance.com"
- Use an asterisk (*) in place of words you don’t know. Searching for a quote, but you can’t remember it exactly? Example: "it's * my dear Watson"
- Search for a specific file with 'filetype:' Example: "Islamic finance statistics filetype:pdf"
- Hyphens exclude words. Example: reba -mcentire.
- Search for multiple words or phrases at once using 'OR'. Example: "what are the rules of mudarabah" OR “basics of mudarabah”
- More is better! The more descriptive words that you use in your search, the more refined your results will be, so don’t be afraid to be a bit verbose in your search queries.
2. Skimming & Scanning
Reading every line of every possible source for your research is time consuming and exhausting. Skimming and scanning over the text can dramatically reduce time spent searching through sources for the needed information.
Skimming is a quick way to lightly read over the text in front of you and get a general idea of the information it holds without getting bogged down by reading every word. While skimming, it is important to pay attention to importance text markers. Stylized text such as: headings, indentations, bold or italicized words, and lists that are either numbered or bulleted signify importance.
Another helpful tip for skimming is to read any summaries that are provided. These will provide you with a general sense of what is in the summarized section and whether or not you should read through all of the material.
While skimming, be sure to also pay attention to key types of information like names, dates, charts, graphs, or images. These can also help provide valuable insight into the subject of the material at a glance.
Tips for Skimming:
- Read the table of contents, chapter summaries, or chapter overviews.
- Glance over the main headings in each chapter and read the headings of charts, tables, and images.
- Read the entire introductory paragraph and then the first and last sentence only of each following paragraph.
- Read only the sentences containing keywords indicated by boldface, italics, or underlining.
- When you think that you have found relevant information, make sure by reading the entire sentence and surrounding material for context.
Scanning is similar to skimming, but focused more on target words or phrases which are related to your research. When scanning a document, it is important to have first reviewed your goal. You must identify exactly what information that you are searching for. It is important to review the questions you wish to answer, and get a good idea of what words or phrases will be most effective to look for when addressing these inquiries.
Tips for scanning:
- Decide what key words or phrases you are looking for before you begin.
- Look to answer only one question at a time.
- When you locate one of your key words or phrases, read the surrounding text carefully to learn all useful information.
- Bonus pro-tip: Ctrl + F – pressing the “control” and the “F” button at the same time (or“command” and “F” on mac) will open a search window in which you can type your keyword and then see all instances of it highlighted on the page.
3. Taking Good Notes
Good note taking practices are extremely important for gathering information for research projects, and for any of your future academic or professional pursuits. The first step to taking notes is to decide which method works best for you and the subject that you are learning about. There are many methods for taking notes. From basic sentences to elaborate maps, and which one you choose should be based upon both what works best for you and efficiency of linking ideas that you will later use to construct your work. The most important part of whichever format you choose is organization. The organization of thoughts that you use when constructing your notes will be invaluable when it comes time to begin your work.
Some examples of note formats and their benefits/weaknesses are:
Benefits: This method is helpful because you can, from the start, begin to link ideas in a hierarchical structure that can very easily be translated to your finished work. By using complete or nearly complete sentences you can practically begin your paper before you even open your word processor.
Drawbacks: The outline method lends itself to complete sentences or thoughts, which can be time consuming. If you are taking notes from a lecture or interview this can pose a challenge when it comes to keeping up with the speed of your lecturer. When using the outline method to take notes from a text, it can also be difficult to resist the urge to copy directly from the work you are pulling from. If you use the outline method to take notes from a text, be sure to paraphrase or put the information into your own words. This will help protect you from unintentional plagiarism later on.
Benefits: The mapping method is a more freeform format for note taking. Less hierarchical than the outline method and typically taking the shape of a spider’s web of sorts, this method lends itself well to the linking of multiple short ideas. This allows for a more free flowing set of ideas that are interlinked while not being buried in sub categories of other ideas. Additionally, the use of single words or simple phrases is less time consuming than writing entire sentences and all but eliminates any fears of unintentional plagiarism.
Drawbacks: The brief and concise nature of the mapping method dramatically reduces the amount of time needed, and it also creates a few new potential obstacles. Recalling exactly how all of the ideas are interlinked, or specifically what you meant when you jotted down that word or phrase may be difficult when you go back later to review your notes. To mitigate this problem, it is suggested that you go back over your notes immediately after you have taken them. While the ideas are still fresh in your mind, fill in any relevant details that you might need to remind yourself later. Adding additional notes to your notes, or elaborating words or phrases that are unclear can really help make sure that you understand what you meant when you get around to transforming your map into actual sentences.
Benefits: The charting method is a great to way to organize your notes right from the start as each piece of data falls neatly into its pre-assigned box. If you make said boxes large enough you can even fit complete sentences or paragraphs into them which really gives you a good structure to start from.
Drawbacks: This method is highly dependent upon you having a good general idea of the subject before you begin. This method would be recommended if you were, for instance, researching multiple kinds of cars. You could create columns for each car on your list and rows of the questions you wanted to answer for each car, but this format works far less efficiently if you don't have sufficient knowledge about your subject matter or the direction that you intend to take when compiling your data.
These are only a few of the options available for note taking and we did not go over the Cornell method or any of the multiple other note taking styles. We recommend that you take some time before you begin your next project to familiarize yourself with all of the possibilities and assess which one works best for you and your particular topic of research.
4. Summarizing and Paraphrasing
Luckily, the world doesn’t expect you to come up with all of your own original thoughts or ideas from scratch when you are asked to write a paper. However, it is expected of you to do your own work and present it in your own words. When you are taking notes or beginning to write your paper, summarizing and paraphrasing skills are a must-have. You must be able to paraphrase the sources that you are drawing from in order to protect yourself from plagiarism and summarize the idea to keep your paper terse enough as to not lose your reader’s interest.
Summarizing, or giving a general overview of a topic can really cut to the heart of the matter and make your point. By sacrificing some specific details that may not be impactful or engaging on their own, you can cut the proverbial fat from what might be a lengthy and overly drawn out source. Summary is the backbone of any research project. Without summarizing your reader might as well just read all of your sources themselves. The compilation of your summaries of multiple sources is what writing is all about. It turns pages upon pages of complicated text into a simplified version that is more easily digestible for your audience.
Paraphrasing is when you express something that was written or said by another person in your own words. Other than avoiding plagiarism, there are added benefits as well. Paraphrasing can help you add more impact to the statement that you are making by adding details, clarification, or appeal to your target audience. When paraphrasing, a thesaurus can be your best friend. You can find alternative words for the ones used by your source material and expand your vocabulary at the same time. It’s really a win-win situation.
Properly citing your work is mandatory and ethical. The authors of the sources that you drew your information from deserve recognition and appreciation for their work. Citation can become complicated with the numerous types of sources, multiple authors, and the various citation formats required by whatever body you will be submitting your work to.
Fortunately, today the answer to these problems can be found online as well. There are multiple sites providing citation services that are available to use for free. Citationmachine.net, scribbr.com, and many other sites provide a very simple and user friendly interface where you simply choose the appropriate format, fill in the blanks, and your citation will be generated for you. No muss – no fuss.
We hope these tips and tricks will help you, and we wish you success with your next project!