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Learn to Research

A guide that will teach you the basic steps to completing research for your assignments.

A graphic describing the steps of the research process. Most of the time you will start with defining and exploring a topic, then move into background research. Once you know a bit about your topic, you can narrow down your focus with a specific research question. Once you have a focus, you can find sources to help you write your assignment. After finding sources, you need to analyze and read through them in order to determine whether they actually contain helpful information. If so, then move on to the writing part of your assignment. If not, you have to go back and find different sources.

The Research Process

Research is a process that takes time and practice - the more you do it, the easier it gets. You can start in any place in the process outlined below and exit at any point as well. 
Keep in mind that you may move backwards and forwards through these steps as well - that is why it is a circle! 

Most of the time, you will probably start with defining and exploring a specific topic - maybe your instructor has given you a list of topics to choose from or you have to select a topic that interests you.

Once you have a general, broad topic in mind, you will then do background research in order to learn more about what you think you want to write about. This can include reading online encyclopedia articles, watching videos, or finding a book at the Library to understand the basic elements.

Next, once you have some knowledge of your broad topic, you can begin to narrow it down and give your research a focus. Most of the time, this will involve posing a research question. Check out our tutorial about developing a research question for specific information.

If you know what you are looking for, finding sources to help you write your assignment is easier. Like going to the grocery store without a list, if you dive into searching without a plan you will become overwhelmed by information very quickly.

After you have found some suitable sources, you can then read through and analyze those sources in detail to see whether they will actually be helpful. If they are, you can then move on to the writing part of your assignment. If not, you will have to go back and find some additional items.