The Research Process

Developing a Thesis

Purdue OWL- How to develop and write a thesis statement
Research builder for persuasive essays

Task Definition

How can you find what you are looking for if you don't know exactly what it is that you are looking for? Before you start any research project you have to define what your task is and make a list of questions that you want to answer in the process of researching.

Let's say you are doing a research paper about the history of women in sports. Think about questions that will make your broad topic more specific.
  • When was Title IX passed?
  • How has Title IX impacted women? If so, are there statistics to show this impact?

Figuring out where to go to locate accurate information

Where am I going to look for the answers to my research questions?

Search Strategies

Google and other search engines use natural language to find and gather sources. If you are doing a search using the catalog and/or databases you should use keywords. Before you start searching spend a minute just writing down words for what you are searching for. Start with broad words and then narrow down.


For example:
  • Topic: Title IX- broad keywords
    • sports and women and legislation and United States and history
  • Topic: Title IX- narrow keywords
    • Title IX and women and soccer and impact

Once you have a list of keywords try doing several searches. If you are using a database, you will notice that when you do a search the database gives you a list of subject headings on the left-hand side of the screen. This may help guide you to find more information.
All of our databases include an advanced search option. When doing an advanced search you can use AND, OR, NOT to limit your search results thereby making it easier to skim through the sources and find exactly what you are looking for.

Here's a tip: Try Truncating! If you want to find information about sports, type in "sport*". By putting the star at the end of the word instead of an s, it will look for information using the keywords: sport, sports, sporting. This is especially helpful if you aren't finding enough sources.

Evaluating websites

You should evaluate all of the information that you find to make sure it is authoritative (ie. factual and that you know who authored and published it). Even the information that you find in our databases can be biased (if it is coming from a magazine source). Make sure you fully read your sources and think about where you are getting the information from and how the author can spin the story that is being reported.
Here are a few really helpful guides to help your critique your sources. If you don't know if you can trust where you got the information from-- don't use it!

Kathy Schock's guide to evaluating websites
Evaluating Internet Information - Can you tell good information from bad?
Website Evaluation Checklist from University of Southern Maine

Finally, Wikipedia is useful for finding quick answers to questions and find keyword terms before you start searching for sources. Remember though that it is a wiki and that means anyone that is a member (me, you, anyone) can edit it and put false, biased information on it. There are editors that go in and check revised pages but it is impossible for them to check every page at every second of the day. So, cite wikipedia as your information source for your research papers.

What is plagiarism?

  • stealing another person's work (words, music, images, etc.) and claiming it as your own.
  • modifying another person's work without citing or receiving permission.
  • stealing your own work (a paper written for a class) and using it again for another class. This is called self plagiarism.

Cite your sources!

When organizing your sources early on in the research process, remember to write down the source information so that you don't have to track down the source later on.
How to do a parenthetical citation
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The Purdue Online Writing Center online guide to APA style from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.



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EasyBib is an online citation generator in any style: Chicago, MLA, APA, Turabian.


Noodlebib an online citation generator to MLA that also allows you to annotate your source. It is the best site for figuring out how to cite sources other than print and websites.

How to Cite Electronic Sources- The Learning Page from The Library of Congress

Writing Your Research Paper- Help!!! Use this reference provided by ABC-CLIO, Wizard: Research Paper, 2012.

Use information and sources (music, images) responsibly!

Legal and Free Music Sources- use these if you plan on sharing your work on youtube or other sharing sites.
Creative Commons- an organization that gathers multi-media sources.
Chilling Effects - database that you can use to search for music and video that has been taken down due to cease and desist.
Fair Use Code of Best Practices- sure you're a student but that does not mean you can or should use copyright materials without getting the permission from its creator.