Introduction | Basics
of Doing Research | Step 1 | Step
2 | Step 3 |
Step 4 | Step
5 | Step 6 | Step
The research process is a simple means of effectively locating information for
a research project, be it a research paper, an oral presentation, or something
else assigned by your professor. Because research is a process, you will need to
allow for ample time to refine or change your topic. Be sure to allow a few weeks to have materials delivered
from other libraries.
Basics of Doing Research
The steps below provide a simple and effective approach
for conducting research for a paper, presentation, or other project
that requires you to locate information about a topic. Depending
on your topic and your familiarity with library research, you may
need to rearrange or recycle these steps. Adapt this outline to
Step 1 - Choose your topic.
Step 2 - Find basic information.
Step 3 - Refine your topic.
Step 4 - Locate and retrieve materials.
Step 5 - Evaluate relevancies of materials.
Step 6 - Take notes.
Step 7 - Construct your project.
Step 1: Choose Your Topic
Select a topic that is of interest to you, or if you have been assigned
a topic, select an aspect or perspective of the topic that interests
you. If you are having trouble selecting a topic, you may find it useful
to browse magazines, journals, newspapers, reference
sources, and online databases. Remember, selecting a topic is the most
important decision you will make in the research process. Without a topic,
you can’t go any further.
Step 2: Find Basic Information
Find basic information on your topic. Select a few
key terms from your topic and search for basic information in reference
sources such as subject encyclopedias, bibliographies, handbooks, library catalogs, books, online databases, and Internet sources (Web sites). This preliminary search will help you determine how
much or how little information is available about your topic.
Step 3: Refine Your Topic
Based on the quality and number of items located, you may need
to refine your topic. If your initial search renders too little information,
try broadening your topic. You can broaden a topic by searching for
related concepts/synonyms using different keywords, or by selecting different
If your initial search renders too much information, you will need
to narrow your topic. You can narrow your topic by using more specific terms and by examining subject headings
in books and/or online databases. Finally, try examining book and article references for additional
If you need assistance with refining your topic,
ask a librarian and/or your professor.
Step 4: Locate and Retrieve Materials
Once you have identified your topic, you can to begin to locate and retrieve
information. Before you begin locating information about your topic, you will need
to identify what information formats (articles, books, websites, dissertations, etc.,) are needed and select the appropriate research
tool(s). The information format is usually determined by the requirements
of your research assignment or instructor.
Step 5: Evaluate Relevancy of Materials
After locating your information you will need to review them for usefulness and relevency to your topic. A clearly, well-defined topic allows you to quickly eliminate irrelevant
information. After your determine the relevancy, you then need to evaluate the
quality of your information.
The basic criteria to evaluating information are as follows:
(1) Authority – Who is the author? What are their credentials?
(2) Accuracy – Are the facts verifiable? Is the information correct?
(3) Objectivity – What is the purpose? Is there a bias?
(4) Currency – Is the information up-to-date?
(5) Coverage – What is the scope of the information? What does it focus on?
Step 6: Take Notes
Throughout your research process you will need to keep accurate notes of what research
tools and search strategies you used–this ensures that you won’t
retrieve the same information twice, as well as allowing you to reproduce a particular search if
needed. Notate complete citations for all your information even if you are unsure of whether or not you will use the information. Trying to locate the information at a later date may be difficult without a proper citations.
A "complete citation"
includes identifying information that allows you to locate information when needed. Some common citations are formatted using the APA and MLA style guidelines.
Step 7: Construct Your Project
Finally you are now ready to start preparing your paper, presentation, or
project. You should have enough research materials to support your research topic. Be careful to cite any information that you have "quoted directly" or
"paraphrased", this way you can avoid committing plagiarism.
research is a circular process, you may need to go back and locate
additional information that your previous search did not locate.
Always give yourself enough time to conduct additional research,