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FYS 100 Libguide: The Research Process

Developed as a part of the Credo Reference Learning Community.

Where do you start?

Ever have a research paper due and have no idea where to start ... or even how to find help? Well have no fear! This guide 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 Research Process Part 1: Planning

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, freewriting, concept mapping, outlines, or even diagrams. Brainstorming will help you find basic background information, 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. Adjust it accordingly, reaching out to your professor or a librarian for support.
  • Develop a thesis statement: Thesis statements explain your objective (goal) 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 it in mind as you work
  • 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.

The Research Process Part 2: Implementation

The second step in the research process is the actual Implementation of your research planning.

This includes the actual research as well as the synthesis of new 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? 
  • 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.  
  • 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.

Search Summon for articles, books, & more


Once you have narrowed your topic and determined your research goals, enter your search terms into Summon. 

Think of Summon like the library's Google:

  • Google takes your search terms and gives you a list of results to the world's relevant webpages
  • Summon takes your search terms and gives you a list of results to the library's scholarly resources
    • These resources are mostly behind paywalls, and therefore aren't found (or free) on Google or Google Scholar
    • Summon's result list includes a menu on the left side to narrow the sources to be as relevant as possible.