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The Successful Research Process

Research is always a multistep process.
Research is often interdisciplinary.
Think broadly about your topic; then narrow and refine the focus.
Keep a record of everything you find and where and how you find it.

Identify Your Topic
The topic is the idea that you are researching. Example: Pollution in the ocean.
Brainstorm and create a concept map of the topic.

Think about your topic from many angles.
Note related and interrelated topics.
Note terminology and synonyms that can broaden your searching power.
State your topic as a question. Example: How does pollution affect the ocean?
Refine the question. Example: How does oil pollution affect marine life in the ocean?
Identify key concepts and list synonyms for them. Example: ocean, seawater; pollution, oil spills; marine life.
List disciplines or subject areas that relate to part of your research. Example: oceanography, biology, aquaculture.
Gather Background Information
Get a broad overview of the subject or topic.
Use both general and subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries.
Get more focused, in-depth, or historical background on the topic.
Use books written in the time period and follow up with more recent information.
Focus Your Research
Gather up-to-date, current information on the topic.
Use appropriate periodical information from popular, trade, and scholarly sources.
se high-quality, appropriate web sites.
Gather in-depth, focused information on the topic.
Search for research studies, surveys, and experiments about your topic.
Evaluate Your Sources
Does the author have authority on the topic?
What are the author’s credentials?
Is the information accurate for when it was written?
Is there a consensus of opinion on this topic? What are the important ideas?
What is the purpose of the source? How will it impact your research?
Is the purpose to inform, to entertain, to teach, or to influence?
Who is the author writing for? Is it biased in any way?
Has the author looked at the material objectively?
Does the author offer several points of view?
How does the source help answer your research question?
Does the source provide valuable, relevant information?
Does the source answer a part of the total research question?

From Burkhardt, J. M., MacDonald, M. C., & Rathemacher, A. J. (2010). Teaching information literacy: 50 standards-based exercises for college students. Chicago: American Library Association, p22-23.