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The Research Process graphic. Authored by: Kim Louie for Lumen Learning

Research Process

Step 1: Define the topic, or carefully consider the topic that has been assigned.

Step 2: Narrow the topic in order to narrow search parameters. Ask yourself, is there a specific focus? Am I considering a particular population, geographic region, or time frame?

Step 3: Gather background information using reference works such as dictionaries or encyclopedias, and other general sources. Understanding the background of a topic will help you define your topic further, and give you a grasp of the main issues, context, and terminology used in the field.

Step 4: Create a research question to help direct your search. Research questions are open-ended and layout the information you would like to find. You may also want to identify secondary questions that address the specifics of your paper.

Step 5: Develop a working thesis statement once you have answered your main research question. A working thesis statement is a single sentence that lays out your main points and purpose of the paper, and provides the reader with a preview of the essay.

Step 6: Find and evaluate sources that support your argument. Try to find sources that are credible and fit your information need. (See Evaluate Sources)

Step 7: Cite sources as you go. Zotero is an excellent tool for managing your sources as you find them to help build your bibliography and avoid unintentional plagiarism.

Step 8: Write (and rewrite!) the paper, and schedule an appointment with the Writing Center for additional support with organizing and writing your paper.

Adapted from Lumen Learning



Research Question Defined

Open-ended query that indicates the direction of your research. It is NOT a claim or conclusion about an idea. Developing your research question will help you research more efficiently by uncovering the on the key concepts of your query. These concepts can be used to develop search terms when searching for relevant resources.

Example: How are women represented in the movie hunger games?

(Also see Choosing Keywords)


Thesis Statement Defined

Statement that summarizes the main points of an essay or research paper, including a specific claim or assertion about a topic or idea.

Example: The Hunger Games represents women as strong, which is exemplified by Katniss Everdeen's self-reliance and confidence.

Consider the following when developing your research questions:
  • What are the facts about X? (Report)
  • How did X happen? (Narration)
  • What are the essential major points or features of X? (Summary)
  • What is my personal response to X? (Reflection)
  • What is my memory of X? (Reminiscence)
  • What is the essential function of X? (Functional Analysis)
  • What are the causes or consequences of X? (Causal Analysis)
  • What are the various types of X? (Classification)
  • How is X like or unlike Y? (Comparison)
  • What is the significance of X? (Interpretation)
  • What case can be made for or against X? (Persuasion)

Remember that the Writing Center is here to help you at any stage of the writing process too!


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