The Research Process
1. State your problem as a question as succinctly as possible.
2. 'Brain dump': Write down what you already know about your topic, including
- Names of people, organizations, companies, time period you are interested in, places of interest [countries, regions, cities], conceptual terms...
3. Decide what disciplinary methodologies you plan to use: e.g., sociology, political science, literature, psychology...
4. Fill in the gaps in your knowlege: get background information from specialized encyclopedias or other secondary sources. Wikipedia can sometimes be good here, or Google News.
5. Select the best places/ databases to find information on your topic from the Library's list of databases by subject. Or use a catalog like Oskicat or Melvyl to search for books and other resources.
6. Use nouns from your brain dump as search terms.
7. Evaluate what you find. Change search terms to get closer to what you really want.
8. Refine Your Search Words - Using the information you have gathered, determine if your research words should be narrower or broader. You may need to search basic resources again using your new, focused topics and keywords.
Library Workshop: Research 101
Unsure how to start a paper or research project? Think maybe you could stand to brush up on search strategies?
If this sounds familiar, Library Workshop: Research 101 has you covered. This interactive tutorial explores six stages of the research process. You can view it from start to finish, or focus on specific sections as needed:
Starting strategies, from choosing a topic to finding the right keywords.
The publication timeline, scholarly vs. popular sources, and differences in academic disciplines.
Search for books and other items in OskiCat, Cal's local library catalog.
Locate and access articles in library research databases.
How to cite your sources correctly.
Common techniques for constructing searches that yield useful results.
Specialized search strategies for targeting specific topics.
The Craft of Research [book]
This classic book on writing a college research paper is easily skimmed or deep enough for the truly obsessed researcher, explains the whole research process from initial questioning, through making an argument, all the way to effectively writing your paper.
This link is to the Google Books preview. But buy a secondhand copy for yourself. It's worth the $8 bucks.