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Environmental Design Library @ UC Berkeley

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Designing A Research Strategy

Content reviewed: November 2010. Elizabeth Douthitt Byrne, Head, Environmental Design Library; revised by Amy Rogers, Intern, November 2010.

Designing A Research Strategy

Searching for information for design projects and research papers need not be difficult. If you design and follow a plan in your search for information—a search strategy—you will be able to find what you need with greater efficiency. This search strategy is intended as a general guide. You can vary it depending on your specific needs, but consider all of these basic steps.

A good place to begin your research strategy is UC Berkeley Teaching Library's General Guide on Research.

DECONSTRUCT your topic to uncover its complexities.  Another term for deconstructing a research question is 'concept mapping;' see the Rhode Island School of Design Library's excellent slide show Concept Mapping for a visual tutorial (a PowerPoint presentation).

  1. Select a style manual for bibliographic citations (see Citation Styles for more information), follow its recommendations for form, and thoroughly cite every source you use. It will save you time when you are trying to locate materials and compile your bibliography or footnotes.
  2. Select a topic. If your topic is too broad, you will find more information than you can retrieve. If it is too narrow, you will find very little information.
  3. Get an overview of your topic by consulting an encyclopedia:
  4. Note key words or subject terms which can be used in your search. Also look for bibliographies at the end of encyclopedia articles. They will lead you to additional sources of information. For unknown or obscure words and terms, and for related subject terms use dictionaries:
  5. To identify lists of books and/or articles already gathered by some previous researcher, check for the availability of bibliographies on your subject. Search OskiCat by doing a keyword search on “bibliograph* AND (your general topic). Example: “bibliograph* architect* (Rome OR Roman)”. If there are no specialized bibliographies on your topic, check the indexes or table of contents of more general subject bibliographies, e.g.
  6. Refine your topic. Using sources gathered so far, clarify the scope and depth of the subject or problem you wish to research.
  7. Search for books and periodical articles on your topic.
  8. Footnotes and Bibliographies. For additional sources check the footnotes and bibliographies of the books and articles which you found most useful.
  9. After locating periodical articles and books, you are ready to evaluate the resources you have found so far. Use Critical Evaluation of Resources to help determine suitable material for your research.
  10. Consider additional sources to supplement your findings, such as Maps, Images, Archival sources etc.
  11. For information on citations, style manuals, and writing research papers or dissertations, additional information, we recommend the sources below, which are available in most campus libraries or in book stores. For more information consult with a librarian.


Style Guides & Manuals

Style manuals provide guidelines for how to format the elements of your citation. In addition to providing guidelines for how to cite sources, these manuals give background information on other elements of style, such as proper page layout, punctuation, quotations, etc.

tip For more or newer publications on this subject search the library catalogs under these subject headings: writing Handbooks; authorship Handbooks; authorship style manuals; research Handbooks manuals; or printing united states style manuals. See also the UCB Teaching Library's Citing Your Sources.


Theses, Dissertations, & Term Papers: Writing & Research

See also Environmental Design Library research guide:

tip For more and newer publications on this subject check in the library catalogs under subjects: dissertations academic handbooks, report writing handbooks, or proposal writing in research handbooks.


Guides To Research—General

tip For more or newer publications on this subject, check the library catalogs under these subject headings: research methodology handbooks; grey literature; or library resources united states handbooks.


Guides To Research—Architecture, Design, & Humanities

tip For more or newer publications on this subject search the library catalogs under these subject headings: art# authorship, or art research handbooks, or architecture research


Guides To Research—Planning & Social Sciences

tip For more or newer publications in this subject, search the library catalogs using these subject headings: social sciences research methodology or environmental psychology research methodology