This page addresses things to be considered before beginning the research process: practical considerations, source types, search strategy structure.
1. Before beginning any research process, first be absolutely sure you know the requirements of the assignment, such as
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.
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 at the bottom of this page.
The research process may be roughly sub-divided into three phases.
I. Topic selection and refinement
A. Topic selection: choose (or have assigned to you) a topic (broad area of subject matter)
B. Investigate topic (do background research): use encyclopedias and other reference works to discover possible narrowed subjects to write about
C. 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).
A. Perform information searches
III. Writing: Putting it all together
A. Gather your information
B. 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.
Types of Sources
Research requires the use of 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: