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Research Process: A Step-by-Step Approach

Conducting Research at Your Library

Beginning your research

Know your Assignment

Decide on a topic

Do an initial search of library and web resources

Turn your topic into a research question

Develop search strategy & identify keywords

Know Your Assignment

The first step fo the research process is to know the assignment and what guidelines/requirements the professor has given. Take note of the following:

  • Topic: Have you been assigned a topic for you to write about or can you choose a subject of interest to you, which fits into the guidelines of the assignment. 
  • Type of research: What type of research is needed? Do you need original research (such as survey or experiment) or are you able to use secondary research (such as research published in books/journal articles)?
  • Scope: Do you need to analyze a topic from different viewpoints or do you need to take one position and defend it?
  • Sources: Are you required to use a certain number and/or type of resources in your research?
  • Citation Style: Has the professor, specified a citation style for you to use in citing your sources? If not, which style is appropriate for your subject?
  • Format/Length: Is there a page limit for the completed assignment? Has formatting guidelines, such as line spacing, numbering, or font size been given?
  • Due date: When is your paper due? 

What makes a good topic?

A good topic is:

  • Broad enough that you can find enough information on the subject.
  • Focused enough that you are not overwhelmed with too much information. 
  • Interesting to you

Keep in mind, good research takes time and effort.

Initial Library Resources Check

It is always good to brainstorm about your topic before jumping into a library or internet resource search. Your text book as well as the library's online reference collection and a review of library books available on your topic can help provide a good overview of your topic.

Turn your topic into a question

Creating a research question can help to focus your research. What about your topic do you want to research? What aspects of the subject interest you?

Search Strategy/Identify Keywords

Determine your Search Strategy by looking at your research question/topic statement and identify keywords and concepts. The Keywords will help you when you begin searching library resources.

Using a search strategy

  • will save you time and energy.
  • will make it easier for someone else to understand your research process.
  • will help you to remain consistent in your search from one resource to another.

Identify the keywords 

  • review your research question.
  • review common terms from an initial library/web search
  • identify synonyms and words related to topic
  • record assigned subjects/subject headings that relate to your key words
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