Ever have a research paper due and have no idea where to start ... or even how to find help? Well have no fear! This page will break the research process down into two easy parts: Planning and implementation. Just follow this outline and you will be well on your way to becoming an expert researcher!
The first step in the research process is planning. This is an important step and will make your research go much more smoothly. In this step, you will:
* Brainstorm and narrow your topic: Brainstorming is an excellent way to start the research process and to identify related ideas. Brainstorming can take the form of lists, free-writing, concept mapping, outlines, or even diagrams. Next, you should look for basic background information on your topic to better understand the foundational concepts behind your topic. Credo Reference is a great place to start for this. These steps will help you get an idea of related keywords and can help you define your topic. Once you start researching, you may notice that your topic is too broad or too narrow and then you can continue brainstorming until you are able to adjust it accordingly. Review How To Choose and Narrow Your Topic if you need help with this step.
* Develop a thesis statement: Thesis statements explain your objective or perspective to the reader. They are very concise statements and the entire paper will refer back to it. It is possible that your statement may evolve as you get deeper into your research, so you need to keep your statement in mind. Stuck on this step? Complete the Thesis Statement Activity.
* Identify your information needs: Ask yourself questions about type of information that you need. Do you need to use any particular publications? Specific journal articles? General reference sources? How much information do you need? Which journals or databases are subject related and might have the information you need? Answering these questions will give you an idea of what you can look for when it comes time to do your research. Download the Research Plan PDF to make sure you stay on track.
The second step is how you use the information in your writing. In this step you will:
* Find & evaluate sources: Your actual research begins here and continues throughout the process. Once you have your information needs defined, you should have some idea of where to start looking for information, or even have some books, articles, or web resources in mind. Be sure to evaluate every source, especially those you find on the open web. Ask yourself objective questions about the source: Who published it? Why did they publish it? When and where was it published? How did you find it? Visit the Finding Sources tab and the Evaluating Sources tab above to view some of the best research databases you have access to as an MU student and the steps for evaluating these and any other sources you may find online.
* Use information ethically and appropriately: You must use your resources ethically. This means that you must cite any information you get from another source even if you put it in your own words! It is against academic policy to present the thoughts, words, or ideas of someone else as your own. Learn more by clicking on the Citing Sources tab above.
* Synthesize and evaluate: Finally, you cannot simply restate the ideas of others, even if you cite them correctly. You must take the information that you find and combine it with what you already know to come out with an entirely new product or idea. This is the most advanced stage of the research process and will use all of your critical and creative thinking skills. It is also the most beneficial to your academic and professional career. To view best practices for analyzing sources, visit the Assignment Types Help Guide.