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Research Tips
  Researching your topic
Researching the culture and background of your country
Researching your country's position on an assigned topic
Other useful strategies

Q: I just received my country and topic assignment. Where do I begin my research?

A: It would be useful to divide your research into three categories:
  1. general research on your assigned topic
  2. research on your assigned country's policies with regard to the assigned topic. If possible, you should begin by researching your assigned topic
  3. general research on your assigned country's background and culture
If possible, you should begin by researching your assigned topic.

Researching Your Topic
Q: So, how do I go about researching the topic I was assigned?

A: It depends on the resources that are available to you. If you have access to a library and/or the Internet, they would both be good places to start. Look for books and web sites that give a general overview of the topic as well as information on more specific aspects of your topic. Try to get an idea of how complex the subject is and how many different aspects you might be confronted with during the conference.

For example, if your topic is infectious diseases, you would want to start by identifying the most common infectious diseases, which sectors of the population are most vulnerable to getting them and why, what causes them, what role environmental conditions play in the spread of these diseases, etc. In addition, you would want to become familiar with the availability of medical treatment, such as vaccine programmes as well as other approaches to the problem, such as education programmes that aim to inform the public of what they can do to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

If you use the Internet for your research you should make sure that you carefully select your sources. The amount of materials available are likely to be far greater than what you can digest in the amount of time you have available to prepare for a conference. Keep in mind that web sites are not always reliable sources of information. Carefully select the sources you wish to rely on for preparing your arguments.

When searching libraries or the Internet for information you might want to look for several keywords that are related to your topic. Sometimes, different spellings or alternative wordings may lead you to additional sources of information.

Here are some common internet resources to help you get started:
  1. Permanent Missions to the United Nations
  2. United States Embassies web site
    This web site contains many links to other resources on countries around the world.
  3. United Kingdom Overseas Mission Policy Pages
    A guide to British regional and global policy on key issues.
  4. Ministries of Foreign Affairs
    The foreign affairs web sites often contain information about governmental policies on different issues.
In addition to libraries and the Internet, newspaper archives and NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) are also useful resources. NGOs are voluntary citizens' groups that perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring citizens' concerns to Governments, monitor policies and encourage political participation at the community level. They provide analysis of issues, serve as early warning mechanisms and help monitor and implement international agreements. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, the environment or health. There are over 1500 NGOs currently working with the UN. The main UN web site contains an extensive list of NGOs organized alphabetically as well as by region and topic.

Finally, if you have tried these different resources and still are having difficulty finding information, then don't forget to ask more experienced MUNers that are members of your school team, other MUNers who are participating in the Cyberschoolbus Model UN interactive forums, or one of the Cyberschoolbus MUN Experts.

Q: Is there anything I should keep in mind when doing research?

A: Remember that many of your sources may be biased. If possible, try to find independent confirmation of the information you have obtained from more than one source.

Moreover, when gathering information it is important to distinguish between opinions and facts. Facts are used to support opinions. Whenever possible use facts to support your arguments but don't be surprised if there are instances when facts are not available. Ultimately, you will be presenting an opinion and must defend it against other opinions. Therefore, it is crucial for you to be familiar with different viewpoints and opinions on your topic. Study arguments that are different from the one your country is likely to take on your topic. Analyse the facts that are used to support opposing arguments. Sometimes the same facts can be used to support two different positions on a topic. Use your knowledge of the complex issues that underlie your topic to find gaps or errors in the reasoning used by those who oppose your position. Remember, it is up to you to decide which particular points you want to focus on in your own arguments and this decision needs to be guided by your country's position!

Finally, read UN resolutions on your topic to find out what issues tend to be discussed when your topic is debated. Resolutions passed by the General Assembly, Security Council, and ECOSOC can be found at the UN Documentation Centre.

If you have research tips to share, email us!

next page: Researching the Culture and Background of your Country

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