This page offers an overview and broad-based information on search strategies and the research process. This information should be considered as foundational material before engaging the more detailed information on the third page of this LibGuide.
Because a research strategy . . .
1. Before beginning any research process, first be absolutely sure you know the requirements of the assignment. Things such as
These formal requirements are as much a part of the assignment as the paper itself. They form the box into which you must fit your work. Do not take them lightly.
2. Treat the assignment as a series of components or stages rather than one undivided whole.
3. Leave enough time between your final draft and the submission date of your work that you can do one final proofread after the paper is no longer "fresh" to you. You may find passages that need additional work because you see that what is on the page and what you meant to write are quite different. Even better, have a friend or classmate read your final draft before you submit it. A fresh pair of eyes sometimes has clearer vision.
4. If at any point in the process you encounter difficulties, consult a librarian. Hunters use guides; fishermen use guides. Explorers use guides. When you are doing research, you are an explorer in the realm of ideas; your librarian is your guide.
There's no reason for a research assignment to be a cat-astrophe. Research is a process, an orderly series of steps which largely remains the same from one research project to another. Research skills are learnable, transferable, and marketable. They are valued by many employers. The information in this LibGuide can help you to to become a skilled researcher.
Note: The information on this page is preparatory and sets the table for doing research. It offers broad-based information about research strategy rather than walking through the steps of the process. Step-by-step information on the research process is provided by the videos on the third page of this LibGuide.
The research process may be roughly sub-divided into three phases.
I. Topic selection and refinement
Topic selection: choose (or have assigned to you) a topic (broad area of subject matter)
Investigate topic (do background research): use encyclopedias and other reference works to discover possible subjects to write about
Select subject (narrowed/ focused down aspect of topic)
Formulate research question/search query: who, what, where, when, why, how,etc.
II. Search: Source selection and information gathering
See box at right "Regarding Sources" for overview of source types and search options. There is no one, single, correct answer to the above two questions. The answers will vary depending on the assignment or task at hand. The only constant is that information from a variety of source portals will be required (blended searching).
Perform information searches
For assistance in performing these searches or at any other stage of the research process, consult a librarian.
III. Writing: Putting it all together
Gather your information
Write your paper
As you write, keep in mind the "Characteristics of a Well-written Paper" outlined on the first page of this LibGuide. Also, once you have entered the writing phase of the research process, maintain close communication with the professor who made the assignment to obtain further information on an as-needed basis.
Research requires engagement with various types of sources.
Accessing sources requires going through various "information portals," each designed to principally support a certain type of content. Houston Cole Library provides four principal information portals: