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REL 4343 Saints, Sages, and Social Reformers: Steps to Doing Research

Step One

Step 1:  Identify and Develop a Topic


  • Topic=  Broadly defined Subject area
  • Narrow or focus your Topic= Think of subtopics
  • Research Question=narrower focus of the topic
    • Why are you researching?
    • What do you want to know about the topic?
Image: Drawing of a man with a thought bubble containing a lightbulb, indicating an idea

Step Two

Step 2:  Select Keywords


  • Typing in your entire question in a database almost never works.
  • So, look for the main terms in your research question
  • Once your key terms are identified, think of words that mean the same thing as your key terms to use in databases if you don't find what you are looking for using your key terms  that you identified in your research question

Research Question

Step Three

Image: binoculars

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,, other search engines