Research, simply put, is information seeking. However, not many see research as more than this – it’s not just about finding a certain piece of information. Research, in its strictest sense, is a thorough examination of a subject. Starting the research process includes locating information, reflecting on the information obtained, incorporating your ideas and organizing them, and then using various credible sources and ideas to come up with your project, be it a classification essay, a research paper, or longer ones, like theses and dissertations. Starting the research process is the only the beginning, and you’ll find the other parts get more complex as you go.
Follow the following steps below, which outlines a simple but effective strategy on starting your research paper and how it should go from there. Note that the steps are perfectly interchangeable, as there are challenges you may be encountering along the way that call for such measure.
Step 1: Distinguish and develop your topic.
For many, selecting the topic can be the most challenging aspect of a research assignment. This is the first step to the research process, so the pressure of getting it done correctly is there. Remember the following as you select your topic:
- Ensure that you choose a topic that is well within the parameters set by the instructions. Most of the time your instructor will provide you with clear guidelines as to what you should and shouldn’t be writing about. Failure to work within the set instructions may get your proposed paper rejected.
- Within those boundaries, select a topic that personally interests you, and entices you to learn more about it. The research process can get boring and complicated, but it will be more enjoyable if you’re working on something you deem interesting.
- It is also vital to emphasize that you should choose a topic in which you can find a wide range of information. Conduct a preliminary search of information sources, which can help you determine whether there are already existing sources or a database you can use. If you find too much information, this usually means you need to narrow your topic. Too little information means you need to broaden your topic.
- Sounds generic, but be original. Your instructor goes through hundreds of research papers each year, and plenty of them are about the same topics. Stand out from the rest by choosing an interesting and the-road-less-taken topic.
- It’s only natural to feel lost as you come up with your topic. If you feel like you need the assistance, see your instructor for advice. Chances are they’d be happy to help.
After you’ve determined your topic, it will help to state it as a question. For instance, if you’ve chosen to write about the epidemic of the increasing prison population in America, you may want to pose the question, “What leads to the increase of the prison population in America?” By posing a question about your subject, you will be able to easily identify the keywords or main concepts necessary in the writing of your research.
Step 2 : Conduct a preliminary search for data.
Having your heart fixated on a topic can send you on a frenzy as you start the research process, but hit the brakes first. Before beginning your research, do a primary search for information. This was mentioned in the first step, but it’s necessary to emphasize it as a vital step to the entire research process. Conducting this search not only helps you determine whether data is enough for you to move forward, this will also help you set the context of your research. Your own library is a goldmine for data, especially the reference collection. Your school may also have access to internet databases you won’t be able to Google on your own. As your search begins, you may find it necessary to tweak the focus of your topic – all this depends on the resources available to you.
Step 3: Locate necessary materials.
As soon as you’ve set the direction of your research paper, starting the research process is now easier. Begin to locate material that will support your topic, which you can find in various places. Books can be helpful, as well as magazines and newspaper articles. Scholarly journals are your best bet, though, as they are circulated in the respective fields you wish to contribute in. The internet is also a good source, as certain publications have already adapted to the digital world. Beware of fraudulent sources, though, as the cyberworld is teeming with false information. Make sure you know how to evaluate sources before using them.
Step 4: Make sure to evaluate your sources.
Evaluating your sources is integral to the research process. To help you with this step, check out the CARS Checklist for Information Quality for tips some tips. Your instructor, of course, expects that you will provide truthful, reliable, and credible information. You have all the right to expect the same from your sources, especially if they were obtained from the Internet.
Step 5: Remember to take down notes.
After you’ve completed the evaluation, go over your chosen resources again and figure out which information will be useful for your information. Document every bit of information you’ve consulted, even if there is a miniscule chance you may not be needing it. List down the author, URL, publisher, and other necessary information as you create the bibliography.
Step 6: Begin writing your paper.
This is where the bulk of your research work will go to, so it’s vital that you do it justice! Begin this step by organizing the information you’ve collected. From there, create a rough draft, where you’ll write your ideas down on paper. You don’t have to get things perfect the first time, as organizing and incorporating your ideas is key. They will determine which direction your final paper will take. After completing your draft, revise as many times as possible – polishing up as necessary will lead you to the final product worthy enough of presenting or turning in to your instructor.
Step 7: Cite your sources properly.
Remember: give credit where credit is due. Cite your sources correctly, as it serves two purposes: it not only gives proper credit to the authors of each material you’ve used, it also helps those reading your work to duplicate your research, aiding them as they locate the sources you have listed as references. You may use either APA citation style or the MLA as citation formats, two of the most popular ones. Failure to cite your sources correctly is equal to plagiarism – you wouldn’t want to submit a plagiarized paper, right?
Step 8: Proofread, proofread, and proofread!
The final step in the research process is to proofread the paper you’ve written. Read your text thoroughly, and check for any errors. Mistakes on spelling, grammar, and punctuation are usually the most common grammar mistakes students make. Again, ensure that your sources are cited properly, and that the message you wish to convey has been written as clear and concise as possible.
Starting the research process is intimidating, especially since it begins with topic selection. But as soon as you have the figured out, the rest can be easy! Just keep coming back to this guide for reference, should you encounter a rough patch.
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