Example Project -- Decaffeinated Coffee

Research Plan

Overall Strategy

Think about the kind of information you need and possible sources for the information. You will probably end up searching article indexes, catalogs, websites, and open internet sources to answer your questions. Make a quick, initial evaluation to select articles. Read them thoroughly later to see how each will contribute to the project. It's likely that some articles will have to be discarded because they do not contribute relevant information. Do further research to fill in any details that are missing from the project. Evaluate each article using these questions.

Journal Articles in Applied Science & Technology and Expanded Academic Index

Applied Science & Technology
Search: coffee and decaffeinat* (the * is a truncation symbol; use it so that all variations of the word, such as caffeinate, caffeinated, caffeination, etc. are searched.)
First article is the Scientific American article found on the "Ask the Experts" website.
Click on the "UC eLinks" button to get to the full text online.
Evaluation: Scientific American website, identifies the author and he is from a department of a reputable university.

Scan the titles and abstracts of the articles you retrieved to find articles of interest to you, for example, articles on the supercritical fluid method of decaffeination may provide information on a alternate decaffeination method.

Expanded Academic Index

Search: coffee and decaffeinat*
Fourth article: Is it true what they say about decaf? The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, May 2004, 20, pp. 1-2.
Public Health Library, Call number RA421 .U58
Evaluation: A UC Berkeley publication - the most reputable source(!). Look at its website to find out the history of the Berkeley Wellness Letter and the names of its editors and contributors.

Books in the Melvyl Catalog 

Search: title: caffeine
year: 1998 - 2005
limit library: UC Berkeley (pull-down menu)
One book is: Weinberg, B. A.; Bonner K. B. The World of Caffeine: the Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug. Routledge: New York, 2001. Bioscience Library; call number is QP801.C24.W45 2001
Evaluation:Caffeine is a drug? And it contributes to culture? Why try to eliminate it from coffee, then? Worth looking at title for the science of caffeine and how it works, and the cultural aspect is probably interesting, too.

Internet Resources Searched with Google (www.google.com)

Search Number One: How is coffee decaffeinated
Article: Senese, F. How is coffee decaffeinated? (Accessed September 30, 2004.)
Evaluation: Author identified, he makes references to other articles and gives his e-mail address if you want to discuss anything with him. I am not familiar with Frostburg State University so will need to find out about it.

Search Number Two: What is the decaffeination process
Article: National Cancer Institute. Coffee Decaffeination Process and Cancer. (Accessed September 30, 2004.)
Evaluation: NCI is very reputable, date is on the article and it refers readers to US FDA and .gov websites for more information.

Search Number Three: Is decaffeinated coffee safe to drink
Article: Is Decaffeinated Coffee Safe to Drink? August 2, 2002. (Accessed September 30, 2004.)
Evaluation: Date is on the article, but who is Alice? A little searching reveals that this is a website of Columbia University, which is very reputable. Information can be used but should be verified by other sources.

Search Number Four: If you know a brand name or product, you might search to see if they have something on the web on the topic, for example, Nescafe, Taster's Choice.
Search: nescafe taster's choice
Click "Products", then "Decaf", then "FAQ".
Scroll down to find "Preparation and Storage" information, then "Caffeine Content".
Evaluation: There are no blatant biases apparent; however, as it is the company website, any information used from this website would have to be independently verified by a more authoritative source.

Websites

Search: decaffeinated in the website Ask the Experts (search box is tiny and in upper right corner)
First article is:
Woolley, R.; How is caffeine removed to produce decaffeinated coffee? October 21, 1999. (Accessed September 30, 2004.)
Fergus Clydesdale, Head of Food Science Department, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, posted this answer.
Evaluation: Scientific American website, identifies the author and he is from a department of a reputable university.

Search: decaffeination process in the website HowStuffWorks (search box in upper right corner)
First article is:
How are coffee, tea and colas decaffeinated? (Accessed September 30, 2004.)
Evaluation: Article looks good, but does not identify the author. Nor does it say who is behind the website. Any information used from this article will have to be verified in one or more different sources.

Structure Searching

Find the chemical structure for your compounds by searching these resources. Structures can be copied and pasted into various software applications.