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ADP Guide to Conducting Research: The Research Process

The Research Process

This is a list of nine steps to help you get started with your research.

  1. Formulate your research question. What are you trying to find out, discuss, and prove? List KEYWORDS to use in your searches.
  2. Find background information on your topic. If you don't know basic or crucial facts to help you knowledgeably discuss your topic, do some background research in encyclopedias, dictionaries, and statistics.
  3. Refine your search topic. Now that you have gathered background information, you may want to refine your topic. Is your topic too broad or too narrow?
  4. Consider your research options. What types of materials do you need to answer your question? Books, journal articles, newspapers?
  5. Select and use appropriate tool. Go to the Library Catalog to find books, use GALILEO to find articles, find your needed Statistics, etc.
  6. Locate your materials. If you can't obtain what you want, let the Library know and we can Interlibrary Loan it for you, which generally takes 3-5 business days if the material is available within Georgia.
  7. Analyze your materials. What arguments and facts are made in the materials that help you in your research?
  8. Organize and write your paper. Generally an outline is a great way to organize your thoughts and supporting material. Visit the OU Writing Center if needed.
  9. Compose your bibliography / works cited page and cite your work properly!

This information is based on USG's Starting Your Search.

Consider What Types of Resources You Need

Before you begin your research, you need to consider what type of resources would answer your research question.

First you need to consider the types of resources available, such as:

  • Books -- locate using our catalog
  • Journal / scholarly articles -- find in GALILEO or through our Journal Finder
  • Magazine articles -- find in GALILEO or through our Journal Finder
  • News articles -- find in GALILEO or using our Journal Finder
  • Websites (must be evaluated for authority and accuracy)
  • Other materials (such as statistics, government information, etc.) -- you can find online

You need to also consider the date and time frame of available materials.

  • Contemporary materials -- written at the time an event occurred OR
  • Retrospective materials -- written after an event occurs and "looks back"

You also need to consider your subject matter .

  • Research topics in the Humanities (art, literature, history) require both contemporary or original materials, written at the time of the event (such as a newspaper article from the event), but you will also probably need retrospective materials, such as a current journal article or book that evaluates and commentates on the event you are researching.
  • If you are looking at a modern-day societal issue, you will want to look at current journal and news articles, as well as current books.
  • Many research topics in the Sciences require up-to-date scholarly publications. You may need to focus finding mostly journal articles.

Help With Research?

For additional assistance, consult the Philip Weltner librarians, either in person or by emailing