Skip to main content

Research Process


Identify key words

With the brainstorming ideas you have come up with from the planning stage, you should be able to pinpoint specific information about your topic and related sub-topics, ideas and issues. These ideas are the key words to use in your preliminary search for sources to see what is available on your topic.

I have gone to the library, but I do not know how to begin

The library may be an intimidating place for a first-year student. Talk to one of the friendly librarians or participate in a library orientation to familiarize yourself with the resources available to you. Once you find sources, evaluate all of the information you find using your assignment topic, brainstorming ideas and working thesis statement as guides.

Now that I have all these resources, can I start to write?

Not yet. Go back to your assignment and refresh your memory of what you need to do. Have you stayed on topic? Do you have the right kinds of sources? Do you know what style of writing you will do? What documentation style will you use?

Review your thesis

Has your research changed your initial thesis? Is there enough research available to you? Does the topic still interest you? Revise your thesis as necessary.

Narrow your topic if it is too broad

Did your research change your focus? Can you go into depth about your topic within the length constraints? For example, a topic on the history of cars is much too broad for a 2,000 word essay, but a topic on the development of safety features of cars would probably be appropriate.

Review your outline

Review the outline you created from the planning stage. Does the information you found from the research fit into the outline? Should you reorganize the points to fit the new information? Have you come up with more ideas from the research that should be added to the outline?

Take good notes

Make sure you choose credible, academic sources. Keep good notes on your research so you can refer to it later and remember what you were thinking at the time. Also, keep track of the reference information on the same sheet of paper as the notes, so you can refer to it later when you document the sources.

Start writing

Once you have your research notes ready, start writing. Some people organize their research notes thematically and tackle each theme individually in accordance with the outline.