Research center

Research process

Six steps to successful research

  1. Define the task
    • What is my question or topical area?
    • Who is the intended audience?
  2. Identify the information needed
    • What type of information will help answer my question? (Data, memoirs, historical analysis, current news etc.)
    • What would previous research on this topic look like? (Research papers, oral presentations, infographics, etc.)
  3. Select sources
    • Where should I look for relevant information? (Scientific data sites, newspapers, a neighbor or relative, a digital archive)
    • What authoritative sources are available? (Books, databases, library research guides)
  4. Analyze content
    • I have all this information - now what do I do? How do I organize my research?
    • How can I tie together all that I have learned?
    • What have I learned that might make me reframe my research question?
  5. Present findings
    • What is the most effective way for me to show others what I learned? (Written paper, oral presentation, video, poster)
  6. At all points: evaluate the process
    • ​​Do I have enough background (tertiary) information to be able to search successfully?
    • Am I using the correct search terms?
    • Do I need to try a different type of source?
    • Has my question changed as a result of my research?
    • Do I need more supporting evidence?
    • Do I have a counter argument?

Research steps

Step one: tertiary investigation

Begin with any helpful tertiary source: encyclopedias, textbooks, and yes even Wikipedia. Look for relevant terminology, dates, people and events that will relate to your question. Create a general research doc (Google docs is handy) to record this information. This wil help you decide if you are interested enough in this topic to pursue it, and you'll also find out if there is enough information available.

Step two: secondary analysis

Your paper should pose a debatable question and then argue for a particular viewpoint or opinion. In this step you'll examine the work of other researchers to see if there are differences of opinion on your topic. If you are only finding opinions or analysis on one side of the question you should approach the topic from a different angle, or choose a different topic. 

Step three: primary sources

You have a topic and the beginnings of a question; now you'll need to find evidence to support your argument. What types of sources will best illustrate your viewpoint?