Step One: Identify Keywords
Choosing the best keywords can greatly impact your search results. Each database and catalog may have different preferred words and subject classifications. It will pay off to spend some time at the beginning of the research process to brain storm and make a list of potential key words.
Key words can be found by looking at your research question, articles from background research, encyclopedias, handbooks, and bibliographies and references lists at the end of books and articles. You may also want to consult a thesaurus to identify synonyms.
Working with a librarian at the reference desk can also help. Stop by the reference desk, or contact a librarian using chat, phone, or text. You may also schedule a one-on-one appointment.
Talk to your instructor, colleague or classmate about your topic and other keywords may emerge.
If there is a professional organization linked to your topic, consult their web site for research and search terms.
Keep a key word and search term list or journal in a notebook or online. Make notes about which terms work in each database.
As you search in specific databases, many have thesauri or indexes. Try the terms you have on your list and see what the database recommends.
Step Two: Search to Find Out What's Been Written About Your Topic
What's already been written about your topic? You can find out by consulting databases and library catalogs.
Identify who the experts are by seeing how many articles and books have been written by specific scholars.
It is helpful if, near the beginning of research process, you search for literature reviews and meta-analyses and then find the sources that these sources describe. To find these, often just typing "literature review" or "meta-analysis" as one of your keywords will bring up relevant results. Some databases, such as PsycInfo, for example, allow you to limit your search to these type of sources. Many of our electronic databases will give a hyperlink to the sources mentioned and cited. Thus, you can track down those sources.
If the database or catalog does not give a hyperlink to the cited source, try searching for the author and title in Dragon OneSearch.
If we do not own the item or it is not in any of our databases, don't fear, as we have a very efficient and quick Interlibrary Loan Service.
Don't only look at what has been written recently on your topic. Although currency of information is important, there may be a seminal, highly important work written years ago that helped inform the research.
Step Three: Changing Topic or Focus If Needed
Patience and flexibility are both needed as you conduct research. You may find that your topic needs to change or be refined. That's okay and very common.You can never be sure of what you may find. You may find too much and need to narrow your focus, or too little and need to broaden your focus. Sometimes a total change of topic may not be necessary, but some other aspect of the topic is more interesting or manageable. Consulting your instructor when you get to that stage may be important, especially if you have already agreed on a topic.
Think critically and evaluate. Is the process going they way you want? Are you finding what you need? If not, reevaluate. Make an appointment with a librarian or your instructor if you are stuck.
Remember that the research process is iterative. In other words, although we have labeled steps in order, you sometimes have to go back and repeat a step. This is natural as you are learning more about your topic as you go.
Step Four: Adding Citations and Creating References List
Use RefWorks (described in another tab) to keep track of your searches, sources and to help you generate a references list.
Consult online and other help for in text citation formats as well as works cited/bibliography/references list. A tab on this libguide will help with this.
It is crucial that you correctly cite your sources for many reasons. First of all, it is ethical to give credit to the sources you use. Second, it is a requirement of your thesis, dissertation or project to correctly do this. Third, as a scholar, you are contributing to the body of scholarship and you want your readers to be able to locate the sources you use.
Step Five: Synthesize Your Thoughts
So you have spent a great deal of time doing your research, found the best sources and you are ready to write. The research process does not end with the research. The goal is to share your own take and insights. Have you answered your research question? What does it mean? What have you found out?
When you synthesize, you draw conclusions about the findings from the literature you have found so that you can identify how the literature addresses your research question.
This document on Synthesizing Research from Augusta University is an excellent explanation and guide through the synthesizing process.
MSUM Livingston Lord Library
The Library is a resource that is here for you as you conduct research, literature review, documentation, and other elements of your project, thesis or dissertation. Here are a few services we offer:
1. One-on-one research appointments with librarians:
2. Library Guides for all Distance Education and Graduate Students:
3. A to Z Database List
5. Interlibrary Loan