top of page



The Research Process


Research Process Steps...

  1. Choose a topic

  2. Find background information

  3. Refine a topic

  4. Select resources

  5. Search for information

  6. Evaluate resources

  7. Cite resources

1. Choose a Topic

  • What do you want to know about? What interests you?

  • Develop your own questions about the subject.

  • Produce some interesting information about something, do not just repeat information, doing so increases the likelihood of plagiarizing information.

2. Find Background Information

  • Do a general search using Safari in the media center for print sources and a variety of search engines on the Web and see what the results are. Perhaps a topic directory might help you find an interesting subject.

  • Are there any general resources that point in a direction? Any recommended links?

  • Is there a bibliography that could point you in a direction?

  • Try a clustering agent like to see how your topic is segmented. Look for comprehensive information, information explaining events, details or laws which relate to your topic, information on individuals who impacted the topic, issues and events that may have been impacted by your topic – do this through topic directory searches.

3. Refine a Topic – Narrow the Subject

Consider your personal interest and the availability of information. Exactly what question(s) do you want to answer? Make a list of options. Develop keywords – list for searches using Boolean operators, think carefully and thoroughly.

4. Select Resources – What would be the best resources for this type of material?

Think about the resources available to you:

  • Books – nonfiction and fiction

  • Reference Books

  • Databases

  • Internet searches

  • Journals (mostly serious research-oriented articles written by professors and other researchers for readers who already know something about the topic – bibliography included)

  • Magazines

  • Newspapers – current and historical, national and international

5. Searching For Information

Use tips and suggestions found within this website, but don't waste a lot of time if you feel you're not getting anywhere with your searching. Ask for help in the media center and from your teacher.

6. Evaluate your Results

Review results of what you have collected to see if you are done:

  • Do I have the quantity and type required?

  • Diversity – primary and secondary – viewpoints covered

  • Scope – depth of coverage, arrangement of material, currency, consistency

  • Merit – quality, validity, author's expertise, content, tone intended audience, authority

  • Have I excluded anything or area of coverage that is important?

  • Check the bibliographies of articles or books covered for ideas of resources

  • Am I frustrated with the results? How do I change the topic or search strategy to locate what I need?

  • Have I written parts and find there is something else I need additionally? Exactly what do I need?

Specifically evaluate the web resources you have:

  • Who is the authority of the information?

  • Who created the site?

  • What are their credentials?

  • What organization is this affiliated with?

  • What is the domain type (.edu .mil .gov .com .net)?

  • Is there a ~ which means this is a personal page – if so, how far back can you go to check for validity?

  • Have you done a search on the creators of the page to find additional information to perhaps show that the author is an expert?

  • Who links to this page? In a search engine type in link: and the url to find out.

  • Is there a bias?

  • Are there citations?

  • What is the last date the site was updated?

  • Is the information useful in answering your question?

7. Cite Resources

  • Remember, different formats require different data – keep track of your material

  • Note databases retrieved from, date accessed, URL

  • When in doubt cite everything!

  • Keep printed copies in a folder for verification in case you need it

  • Photocopy both sides of the title page of a book or reference book with publisher/publication information to save yourself headaches

  • If you are not sure what constitutes plagiarism see this site


bottom of page