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|Step 1: Identify and Develop a Topic
- Topic= Broadly defined Subject area
- Research Question=narrower focus of the topic
- Why are you researching?
- What do you want to know about the topic?
- Suggestions for picking a topic and a research question:
- Discuss with your professor or classmates
- Identify something that you are passionate about
- Scan professional and trade publications for current trends on your TOPIC, and select a RESEARCH QUESTION based on that.
Step 2: Develop an Overview of the Topic
- Do background research on the topic--find out what you can about your topic.
- Do background research on the different parts of your research question
- Refine your research question—you may have picked a question that is very general and you need to make it more specific (or vice-versa).
- Useful sources for finding background information
- Know what you are looking for first!
- Going to a search engine, library catalog, or database and simply typing in words for inspiration will lead quickly to frustration
- Typing in your entire question almost never works.
Step 3: Locate Materials
- Books: Use mainly for background information, history, overviews of a topic
- What to Search: Use your broader search terms (topic keywords) to search catalogs for books
- Where to Search: Library Catalog, (select Search Books and Media tab over the search box on the library main page). Also search Worldcat (to find other books that the West Library doesn't have)
- Journal Article:Use for in-depth topic research, and experimental results
- What to Search: Use the keywords you selected from your research question or other terms that you identified from steps 1 and 2
- Where to Search: EBSCO Discovery Service, individual Journal databases
- Web Pages: Varied--Everything from scholarly level research to pop-culture pages
- What to search: Use the keywords that you developed in steps 1 and 2
- Where to search: Google, USA.gov, other search engines
Step 4: Frustration
- Are you getting way too many results, none of which look like they could answer your question? Your search is too BROAD. Try to pick more specific or clearer terms.
- Are you not getting any results? Your search is too narrow. Try using a broader term, or try to research each aspect of your research question separately. You may need to discuss the research question with your professor to decide ways to make it a broader search.
- Are you only finding materials that the library doesn't have? Then request an interlibrary loan of ask a librarian for help with your search.
- Try to look through the Works Cited pages in your textbook to get ideas of where the authors did their research, the terms they used, and topics/research questions that are common in your field.
Step 5: Re-search
- Evaluate what you already have and what you still need (evaluate for completeness)
- Fill in gaps in your research
- This is mostly a step to lookup little facts, statistics, or definitions to properly answer your research question
- Extract the useful information from your sources that you have gathered, and determine how it will be used in your paper, evaluate for content
- This is the step in which you write your paper
- You get help with the writing process from your professor or from the Academic Success Center, located on the first floor of the library
Step 7: Cite your work
- Keep citation notes throughout your research to make this step easier
- For every source that you find, get as much of the following information that you can:
- Author's names
- Publication date or last updated date
- Title of article, Title of Journal, title of magazine, web page or book
- Volume and issue (for periodicals)
- Publication information: publisher name and city, for books; database name for periodicals
- URL (For web pages); DOI (for periodicals) and Date accessed (for anything online)
- Include only information you cite in your paper in your Works Cited page
- Indicate in the text of your paper when you are citing another author, even if it is not a direct quote. Cite quotes, ideas, statistics, summaries, paraphrasing, and facts that are not commonly known
- Use the citation style required by your professor. Style manuals are available in the Reference Collection of the library and on the library's web page.