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What is Research?: Research Steps

Step by Step: The Process

Step 1. Identify what you need to research.  What is the question you are trying to answer?

Step 1a. What is your topic?  

Step 1b. How much information do you need? Basic information?  Detailed explanations and studies?

Step 1c. What level of information do you need? Why are you looking for this information?


Step 2. Identify synonyms or similar ideas that relate to your topic.  This will allow you to expand your search when you start the actual searching.  And it will save you some time in the long run.


Step 3. Identify some appropriate resources to begin your search.  Look for databases, journals, and books.

Step 3a. Use the Library's database list to find databases organized by subject.

Step 3b. Use government sites and information.


Step 4. Search for items using the resources you've identified.  Start your search using the terms you've already identified in Step 2.

Be prepared to adjust your search as you go.  Sometimes, new keywords, phrases, or subjects that you hadn't thought of will show up in your results.  Don't hesitate to use them, too.  Remember, this is your way of exploring your topic.


Step 5. Gather any publications that relate to your search for further review.  You can do this fairly easily by reading or skimming the abstract for the publication.

An abstract is the summary of the contents of a book, article, or other larger work.  In some cases, that's all you'll find of an article.  Don't let that turn you away.  Libraries have a wonderful service called InterLibrary Loan that allows you to check out materials that your Library doesn't own.

Step 5a. InterLibrary Loan (ILL) any articles or books that fit the topic but are not owned by the library.

Interlibrary loan is a great program where you request books or articles that the library does not own, and we (the Library) borrow those items from other libraries across the country.  As a student, you get free access to this service.  Just go to this site:, and click on First Time Users to sign up.  You can also access the link by going to the library homepage and hover over the Services tab and then clicking on Interlibrary Loan.


Step 6. Once you feel you've gathered enough publications to review, start reading them.  The tricky part?  Evaluate each publication after you've read it.  Use the CRAAP test, found on the Evaluating Resources tab.

Step 6a. How Current is the publication?

Step 6b. How Relevant is the publication?

Step 6c. Who is the Author of this publication?

Step 6d. How Accurate is the information?

Step 6e. What is the Purpose of this publication?


Step 7. Once you've gone through all of the publications, you may need to identify more for your project or paper.  There are at least three ways to do this...

Step 7a. Return to the reliable and appropriate resources you've already used and search again--try new words or subjects that you identified in the publications you've already read.

Step 7b. Look at the bibliographies of the publications that you've already found to be useful.  They may point you to new publications.

Step 7c. Talk to your librarian!  Librarians have graduate degrees in finding information.  Odds are...we can help you.