Step 1: Getting Started : Topic Selection and Definition/Develop a working knowledge of your topic
- Refer to encyclopedias, subject-related dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks to gain a broader perspective on your topic and the focus on which you concentrate.
- Narrow your topic by looking for the central question/issue.
Step 2: Research Strategy
- Develop a list of keywords and phrases that describe your topic
- Define the types of information you will need: primary, secondary, or both
- Determine which sources will provide the best information: journals articles, books, audiovisual materials, reports, conference proceedings, reference resources, etc.
- When you across references intext of the work you are consulting, locate the full reference of the source in the reference list or bibliography, and locate the original source. It is always better to cite the original source, as you are able to determine the context.
- Balance your research with a variety of library resources and World Wide Web sources
- Consult with faculty, peers, and librarians to expand your research base
Step 3: Evaluation of Information
- Now that you have your information sources it is time to evaluate them for authority, credibility, and validity. The "Evaluate Resources" tab near the top of this page will lead you to guidance on how to evaluate information for credibility and reliability.
- Determine the relevance of the source to your topic. There is a difference between information being related to and information being relevant to the topic or the approach to the topic that one is taking. How do you determine relevance: Does the information support your argument? Does it provide a foundation for your argument? Does the information support your approach to the topic?
Step 4: Analyzing, Synthesizing, Writing
It is not time to put away your "thinking caps." Draft summaries of the sources you have retained, noting key points, or key quotes that can be used to support your argument. Make sure to document sources according to the appropriate citation style required by your professor or department. Always provide references for ideas that are not your own. Plagiarizing has serious academic and civil consequences. Be aware of copyright restrictions, license agreements, and other laws or policies related to the appropriate and ethical use of information. Now, you can write.