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Understanding the Research Process

Students and business professionals alike find themselves often required to perform some kind of research. Most, however, dread the task. This dread stems primarily from their lack of understanding of the seven steps of the research process. The seven steps of the research process define an effective strategy for locating and documenting the information and resources you need for your assignment. Depending on your subject and familiarity with the available resources, it may be necessary for you to repeat some steps multiple times or to completely rearrange the order of some of them. Live boldly, rearrange or recycle the steps as needed.

Identifying and Developing Your Topic

Usually this step is already done for you by your instructor or supervisor. Being given an assigned topic can actually make this entire process a breeze as those who are not given a topic must dig about to find one themselves. If you have not been given a topic, many school and library websites have subject guides that may give you some ideas for a topic. Another source is to view websites related to your class subject, reading some of their resources may tickle your idea bone. Once you have your core topic, transform it into a question. Your core topic might be something like “the effects automobiles have on global warming.” Transforming it into a question could become something like “is global warming causing carbon dioxide the only contribution automobiles make to our declining environment?” Once you have established the question, identify the main ideas or keywords contained in the question. In the above example, keywords would be “carbon dioxide,” “global warming,” “automobiles,” and “declining environment.” Keep these close at hand. Locate Background Information Finding background information on your topic gives you the basis for the rest of your research and as a beginning for your assignment. In our example, there is a lot of material available on the subject of global warming and the effect automobiles are having towards its development. It may seem the topic is over-exposed, but is it? Examine the websites and library resources on the topic, paying close attention to the bibliographic information and indexes or related articles. You may find a unique angle for your paper hiding within them. Tire pollution, for example, is a serious concern, as are the health costs associated with increased automotive soot emissions.

Finding Books and Media Materials

Using the keywords and bibliographic information you gathered in steps one and two, it is now time to locate the materials you will need for your assignment. Using card catalogs (which are abundant on library websites today), write down the citation information (author, title, year, publisher) and the location number (call number and library location). Make sure the book is currently available by checking the circulation status. If it is not available at your branch, it may be necessary to order it through the library system and pick it up later. Continue to the library stacks (the shelves where the books are stored) and begin locating your materials. As you find them, scan the bibliography of each for additional resources. Also, examine the books immediately around the ones you pull for other books that may be relevant to your research.

Finding Periodical Articles

Your next step is the periodicals (magazines, newspapers, journals, etc.) that are published on a regular basis (hence the name periodical). Use the periodical index and abstract resources to locate the articles you need. You may need to ask the librarians where these are as today many libraries keep them in computer databases. Again, as you find each article, note down the citation information (author, title, date – not just year, publication, and the pages the article was found on). Ascertain the articles location within the library (i.e. printed form in the stacks or in microfiche archives) and either view the materials in the library or obtain photocopies of the articles for later examination.

Finding Internet Resources

I wrote an extended article elsewhere on our website on this topic which I recommend viewing to supplement what I am about to say. On the Internet, using search engines and Internet directories, locate any relevant online resources. Many academic and scholarly journals have established an online presence that may be beneficial in obtaining the latest information on your topic. Examine them and any organization website that may be related to your topic. On these, pay close attention to any article or resource bank the group might have or any “additional information” link pages. As with printed bibliographies, these can give valuable leads to additional resources relevant to your research.

Resource Evaluation

Now that you have gathered your information, it is necessary to judge the quality, authority, and relevance of the information. In analyzing these factors, the source of the information, author, and age of the information must all be taken into account. Do not dismiss the usefulness of an article just because it is an older article. The information in it could still be valuable in establishing the history of your subject, particularly if written by a noted authority in the field and doubly so if the information has since become more important, as is the case with most materials on the global warming and environmental pollution issues in our earlier example. At this point, having weeded out any questionable material, examine what you have left. Do you have enough information to work with? Too much? Too little? Too much information may suggest a need to narrow your topic a bit. Too little information suggests the opposite, of course. A brief consultation with your instructor, supervisor or friendly librarian may help. Never be afraid to ask for help or advise from your librarian, especially. You may be truly surprised at the quality and quantity of knowledge he or she may have.

Building Your Citation List

This step is critical. Researchers and writers must give credit where credit is due. Knowingly omitting citations is the same as claiming the work of others is your own. Doing so is called plagiarism and can have serious consequences. Aside from the consequences, supplying appropriate citations allows those reading your work to verify your research and perhaps use those resources in the future for their own research. Use a standard citation format in building your bibliography. This format is usually dictated by an instructor if you are still in school, or could be called for by your particular occupational industry. Use the publication data you gathered earlier in the process for this activity.

Turn To Us For Immediate Assistance

At this point, you should have the materials you need to complete your assignment. From here all it takes is extracting the relevant information from your sources, organize it into a logical structure, and finally write your paper. Do not forget to insert the in-text citation references where appropriate. If you have any trouble locating materials you need for your assignment, keep in mind that our company has hundreds of skilled research writers on staff. Many of them have access to materials you might not have and will be happy to help you at an affordable rate. All it takes is your order and topic information. Your identity and materials will remain our secret.

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