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Steps of the Research Process

The Seven Steps of the Research Process

STEP 1: Identify and Develop your topic
State your topic as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about use of alcoholic beverages by college students, you might pose the question, “What effect does use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?” Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question.

STEP 2: Find Background Information
Look up your keywords in the indexes to subject encyclopedias. Read articles in these encyclopedias to set the context for your research. Note any relevant items in the bibliographies at the end of the encyclopedia articles. Additional background information may be found in your lecture notes, textbooks, and reserve readings.

STEP 3: Use catalogs to find books and media
Use guided keyword searching to find materials by topic or subject. Print or write down the citation (author, title,etc.) and the location information (call number). Note the circulation status. When you pull the book from the shelf, scan the bibliography for additional sources.

STEP 4: Use indexes to find periodical articles
Use periodical indexes and abstracts to find citations to articles. Ask at the reference desk if you need help figuring out which index and format will be best. You can find periodical articles by the article author, title, or keyword by using the periodical indexes in the library.

STEP 5: Find Internet Resources
Use search engines. Check if your class has a bibliography or research guide.

STEP 6: Evaluate what you find
If you have found too many or too few sources, you may need to narrow or broaden your topic. Check with a reference librarian or your instructor.

Give credit where credit is due; cite your sources.
Citing or documenting the sources used in your research serves two purposes, it gives proper credit to the authors of the materials used, and it allows those who are reading your work to duplicate your research and locate the sources that you have listed as references.