Basics of Research

Research can be overwhelming, especially for students who don’t have a lot of experience with it. Luckily, the research process can be broken down into smaller, more manageable parts that make the experience easier and less stressful.

Understand your assignment.

Trying to start your research without understanding your assignment will lead nowhere – it’s like driving to a destination without a GPS or any sense of direction. Focus on the length of your assignment, the due date, and the types of sources you’ll need to use.

Choose a topic.

If possible, choose a topic that interests you. This will make the assignment more fun, and much easier to complete. If you don’t know very much about the potential topics, then you can do a little background research to help you decide.

Figure out what information you’ll need.

Information can come from many different source types – including books, journals, newspapers, and more. Sometimes professors will require you to use either scholarly or popular sources as well. Scholarly sources can typically be characterized as works where scholars wrote peer-reviewed academic research that explores a new discovery in their field. Popular sources are intended for general audiences and have the purpose of informing, entertaining, or persuading.

Identify a research question.

This step is really helpful in narrowing down what you’re going to be searching for. It will also help add focus to your project. Consider a variety of brainstorming strategies, such as concept mapping.

Explore sources.

Brookens has access to a lot of different databases, so knowing where to start can sometimes be confusing. For general research, Academic Search Complete and Google Scholar are great places to start. For more in-depth searches, our research guides have recommended databases for many different subjects.

Start searching

You should definitely pay careful attention to your search terms. Selecting important keywords from your research question will help you get better results than if you try to search your question.

Evaluate the information you’ve found.

There are a few things to focus on when deciding if you want to use a piece of research.

  • Is the information current? (Or, is it important for you to use up-to-date information for this project?)
  • Is the research relevant? Will this information help you complete your assignment?
  • Did this come from a credible author/source?
  • Is the information accurate? (You may need to check with other research to answer this.)
  • Is this research attempting to persuade you or give you an opinion? (You may need to reconsider how you’re going to use the information after you answer this.)

Cite your sources.

Citing your sources accurately is really important in order to avoid plagiarism. The Purdue OWL is a great source for information on citations – it has great tips and goes into detail on everything you need to know for different citation styles.

If you ever have any other questions about the research process, feel free to reach out to the library for help! You can either contact a librarian for subject-specific questions, use the library’s online chat service (which can be found on the library’s homepage) for the more general questions you may have, or check our FAQs!

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