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Conducting Research: The Research Process

About Research

A common misconception about research is that it is a single, isolated step in writing a paper.

Actually, research is a cyclic process that occurs the entire time you're writing a paper. It can even result in dramatic changes of direction for the work and in the development of a different thesis.

Step 1 - Topic Selection

1) Start by identifying a broad topic. Think in very general terms. Try to identify a single word or phrase to describe your topic. This is NOT your final thesis topic; just a way to get started in finding it.

2) Look for very general information to get an overview of the subject. Consider looking in online encyclopedias or other reference resources to gather this general information.

3) Now select some specific aspect of your original topic based on the general information you've read. It should, ideally, be some facet of the topic that interests you or about which you have unanswered questions.

Step 2 - Finding Sources

Using FlashFind

1) Use FlashFind's advanced search interface to search all of the library's online resources at once.
2) Refine your results using the limiters located on the left side of the results list.

Using Subject Research Guides

1) Identify a Subject Research Guide that is best related to the topic that you've chosen.
2) Select a database from the Subject Guide and conduct initial searches to locate research materials.

Regardless of which approach you take --

1) Be strategic in selecting search terms for use in the databases! If one term does not yield many results, consider a synonym or related term.
2) Ask a librarian for assistance, if you are having trouble or just have questions.


Step 3 - Evaluating Sources

For your argument to have merit, the sources you cite should be credible. Evaluate them carefully for credibility.

Review the other tabs in this guide for information on website credibility and scholarly resources.

Step 4 - Refining Your Search

1) If needed, go back and search again to find additional material that will develop your ideas further.

2) Sometimes, your argument can expand its scope – or even change completely – as you gather info. Your original thesis might not be the same when you reach your final draft.

Step 5 - Writing and Revision

1) Begin writing your paper.

2) Be sure to seek assistance, if you are struggling.

3) Create a citation list for the works you've used and quoted from in writing your paper.