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.
How is interdisciplinary research different?
How can you do truly interdisciplinary research, when most research sources are discipline-specific? Most of us learn to do research within a discipline, but you need to become adequate in multiple disciplines for this course.
- Determine which disciplinary methods you will use- to know WHERE to search and how to use what you find.
- Look in a specialized encyclopedia to get background information on research methods for a specific discipline. For an econ related topic, you could use An encyclopedia of macroeconomics.
- Become conversant with the terminology of all relevant disciplines- to know HOW to search [i.e., which words to use as search terms]
- look in a specialized encyclopedia to learn the terminology of a specific discipline. For a public policy related topic you could refer to Health care policy and politics A to Z
- Understand what kinds of sources are considered legitimate by those disciplines- to know WHAT to search for.
- specialized encyclopedia will probably have an essay on methods of research that will explain what sources are appropriate.
- Learn what kinds of research questions are valid in the disciplines you are working with.
- Reading other research articles in the discipline is the best way to learn about what questions are considered valid.
Find specialized encyclopedias for your disciplines:
- Open Oskicat
- Type encyclopedias and a word or phrase describing your topic, such as development
- See what comes up.
- If that doesn't work, try typing handbooks and a word or phrase describing your topic such as organizational behavior
- If that doesn't work, ask a librarian.
Read more about doing interdisciplinary research. An excellent book is Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory by Allen Repko
How to Avoid Plagiarism
In order to avoid plagiarism, you must give credit when
- You use another person's ideas, opinions, or theories.
- You use facts, statistics, graphics, drawings, music, etc., or any other type of information that does not comprise common knowledge.
- You use quotations from another person's spoken or written word.
- You paraphrase another person's spoken or written word.
- Begin the writing process by stating your ideas; then go back to the author's original work.
- Use quotation marks and credit the source (author) when you copy exact wording.
- Use your own words (paraphrase) instead of copying directly when possible.
- Even when you paraphrase another author's writings, you must give credit to that author.
- If the form of citation and reference are not correct, the attribution to the original author is likely to be incomplete. Therefore, improper use of style can result in plagiarism. Get a style manual and use it.
- The figure below may help to guide your decisions.
This content is part of the Understanding Plagiarism tutorial created by the Indiana University School of Education.
Tutorial: 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 search keywords.
The publication timeline, scholarly v. 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.
Common techniques for constructing searches that yield useful results.
Specialized search strategies for targeting specific topics.