5 F's: Find, Focus, Filter, Face Fears, File


Background research involves a continuing interplay among the 5 F's: Find, Focus, Filter, Face Fears, File.

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5F's to keep in play as you proceed in your background research

Find: Develop skills in using bibliographic searches, enlisting timely assistance from library personnel, identifying initial guides or informants, and so on. What you Find may relate to what you are Focused on or to material that leads you to refine or rethink that Focus.

Focus: Ask yourself “What am I looking for now? What do I know and what do I need to know to keep moving forward?” Your Focus will evolve as you Filter and Actively Digest what you Find.

Filter: You cannot read everything you Find, so check out the article's title, introduction, topic or thesis, ending, and subheadings to see whether and how it connects with your project. If it does not connect with your current Focus, put the article to the side or into the recycle bin. What you do read should be Actively Digested, so you can refine your Focus.

Face Fears: Your ability to Find may be inhibited if you Fear that others have already done what you want to, or if you Fear your work is not important unless it is completely original. If you Face your Fears, you can accept that the work of many others overlaps or intersects with your work. You can even embrace that work, being confident that, in the end, your project will be original because no-one before has ever been weaving that project into your work and life.

File: To help you Focus, clear your physical and computer desktops of material you are not using right now. File the printouts and notes in places organized and labeled so you can Find them again easily.

Expect to be fuzzy or unfocused at first, but do not insist on clarifying your Focus before trying to Find material. Instead, start with your initial Focus and let it evolve as you see what material you Find (or do not Find), Filter that material, and Face your Fears. Keep the 5F's (or 6F's depending on how you count Face Fears) in play as your research into Background Information proceeds.

(see Phase B)