This guide has been developed to give you an overview of the research process and to provide guidance as you work on your research assignment. If you need ideas on what to explore for your next research paper, jump to the Topic Ideas section. If you already have a research topic and aren't sure where to find the information you need, hop on over to the Accessing Library Sources or Databases vs. Google sections. Tips are given in bite-sized chunks, so feel free to grab what you need and go.
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Source types - Are you required to use scholarly or peer-reviewed sources? What types of source are you prohibited from using? Knowing these parameters will help you narrow your search results to the source types you need for the assignment.
Number of sources - How many sources are you required to cite in your paper? You won't likely find all selected sources useful, so consider selecting double that number.
Number of pages - How long does your paper need to be? If you aren't required to cite a certain number of sources, aim for around one source per page. If your paper needs to be 5-7 pages, plan on citing 5-7 sources.
Required citation format - For your course, what format should your papers follow? Sources you select from most FC Library databases will provide the source citations, but they are not consistently accurate. Copy the citation in the required format, then make necessary corrections using the MLA Works Cited or APA References Guide (see Citing Sources).
One: Keep a working bibliography of the sources you may use for the paper. When you are ready to write your paper, your working bibliography will make the process of citing your sources and putting together your Works Cited or References page much easier. There are a couple ways you can organize your working bibliography:
Two: When you discover a potentially useful source for your paper, make sure you have a way to get back to the source, e.g., add the citation to NoodleTools or save the link back to the article. If you locate an article using OneSearch, export the citation to NoodleTools or copy the permalink in the tools column instead of the URL in the browser, which will stop working after it times out.
Plan to conduct research in an iterative rather than a linear fashion. In other words, expect to move from asking questions, to gathering information, to asking more complex questions, to seeking out new information, to reviewing the literature, back to questioning again. Though it may be tempting, do not start by writing your paper (adding to the conversation) and then gathering sources to support your claims. Hold back from drawing conclusions until you have considered multiple perspectives, including those that challenge your own.
Question & Plan
Continually ask questions during the research process. What is the dialog and debate related to the topic you want to investigate? What problems need to be solved? What decisions need to be made? Your questions will determine the type of information you seek and the keywords you use to search for relevant information.
Search for and gather reliable and relevant information to reach an informed answer to your research question(s). You may have strong opinions or beliefs before you begin searching for sources, but be willing to challenge those assumptions. Seek information from different source types and multiple perspectives, especially those with views opposing your own.
Digest and analyze the information you have gathered. Look for connections among sources. What information is missing? These questions will take you back to the gathering or questioning and planning stages until you have sufficient information to answer your question(s).
Draw conclusions based on the information gathered. If you start your research with a thesis statement (the answer to a research question), test the validity of this statement by looking for information that will disprove and prove your claim.
Add to the Conversation
Contribute to the dialog and debate surrounding your topic of investigation by writing a research paper or taking action on your informed decision.