Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.


The Research Process

  • Research involves acquiring, interpreting and synthesizing information in order to address a specific information need.
  • Through research, you will be able to find gaps in your knowledge and understanding of a topic, and your ability to think critically about information and its sources will improve.
  • The research process is not a straight line from point A to point B... it is more of a cyclical process. At any point in the process you may realize a need to revise your topic, focus on a different aspect of the topic, revise your search strategy or find additional sources to fill in information gaps.
  • Research will probably take more time than actually writing your paper... therefore, don't procrastinate. Getting started on the research process right away is the best idea!
  • Your research paper should demonstrate your understanding of how the various sources of information you've gathered all tie together. You will combine the information into a logical, cohesive whole, including your own insights and analysis about the topic.
  • Taking notes during the research process is essential. You can print out and use the Research Worksheet to assist you.

Steps in the Research Process

  • Topic Development
    In this stage you choose a topic, develop a research question and gather background information.
  • Search Strategies
    This stage involves coming up with search terms (the words you will enter into the database search boxes) and search statements (the commands you will give the database in order to get back relevant, precise results).
  • Finding Sources
    This is when you search the catalog and databases for books and articles, using filters to narrow the search results, and tweaking your search statements to produce better results.

  • Evaluating Sources
    When you evaluate a source, you are asking (and finding the answers to) questions about the relevance, accuracy, purpose and timeliness of the content and the authority of the author.

  • Citation
    The citation process involves getting the citation information for the sources you use, putting in-text citations into the content of your research paper, and properly formatting the Works Cited (for MLA) or References (for APA) page.

Choose a Topic

- Taking notes during the research process is essential. You can print out and use the Research Worksheet to assist you.

- Choose a topic that interests you... something that you are curious about and want to learn more about. Sometimes your instructor will assign a topic, and your choices may be limited. Other times you will have the opportunity to choose your topic.

- The following list names some library databases that can help you identify a broad topic area, discover different aspects of that topic and learn some background information about it:

Below is a screenshot from the database Opposing Viewpoints in Context showing the range of broad topic areas that you can find infomation about.