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Research Guide

How to do research for an academic paper.

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.

Database and eBook access

  • Get access to the databases and eBooks from the Library. You will need to have your student ID card activated.

    NOTE: Students not on campus may decide not to  get a Student ID at the beginning of the semester.
    DO NOT need a Student  ID to access the online  library resources, however, to  gain access to the Library’s extensive collection of electronic resources such as eBooks and academic databases with full-text  articles, students MUST activate/renew their library accounts each semester by contacting the Library.

    For assistance, stop by the library, call us at 850-973-1624 or send an email to
    This is what the database/eBook log-in screen looks like:

    If the College isn't already set to North Florida College, please select it from the drop-down menu.
    Borrower ID is the 14-digit number underneath the barcode on your student ID card (or ID number set by contacting the library).
    Your PIN/Password is the last 4 digits of your social security number (or PIN set by contacting the library).

    *Online Students and Dual Enrollment Students without an NFC Student ID card should contact the library for database access.

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.

The Research Process