Research Tips
Are you having trouble sifting through the mountain of
information you've found?

Are you not able to find the kind of articles and data that can truly contribute to your work?

We can help.
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Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.
The  University of  Oklahoma                                             

The Research Process: 
It's about planning and breaking down the work into manageable steps.

Getting Started

  • Define your research problem
  • Make a list of key words that you can use in a keyword search
  • Make a preliminary lists of relevant authors and researchers in this field

Step One:  Keyword Searches
  • Internet search:  try search engines such as and  for searches for material on the web, but be very discerning as to the suitability of the material for your paper
  • Journal search:  determine the field of study you need to research.  Is it in the Humanities?  Earth Sciences?  Life Sciences?  Social Sciences?  Search in the appropriate databases
  • Monograph and book search:  go to the library and conduct a keyword search, and also search based on the results found in your journal and Internet searches (authors, titles, journals)

Step Two:  "The Concept"
  • Write down what you consider to be the major concept encapsulated in your research problem; that is, the key results or contributions that your research will yield
  • Look through the material that you have found in your earlier searches and make a list of authors, new keywords, journals
  • Search again, filling in the gaps so that you can find articles that clearly articulate aspects of the concept of your research problem, either in previous times or currently

Step Three:  Finding "Evidence"
  • What constitutes "evidence" that backs up your research problem? Make a list of the types of evidence -- does it consist of statistics?  Of passages from books?  Of artworks?  Of critical articles or critical analyses?
  • Make a list of the key individuals who have generated the types of evidence you need to find.  These may be a) researchers; b) authors; c) writers of critical theory or criticism; d) scientists.
  • Return to journals, Internet, and library indices and find additional articles or works that you can use as evidence.  Be sure to keep track of all the information you will need to create a proper citation.

Step Four:  Chronicling the History and Development of Ideas Pertaining to Your Research Problem
  • Write down what you consider to be the primary research problem, and list the evolution of ideas pertaining to it.
  • Who were the first people to write about the problem, as it existed in its nascent form?
  • What was your research problem topic or theme called in earlier times?  Did it have the same name?  Who gave it that name? What were the socio-political implications?
  • Return to your sources and create a timeline that traces the evolution of ideas, research activities, theories, and propositions relating to your research problem.

Step Five:  Researching "The Opposition"
  • Are there any articles or books that you have come across in which the author takes a position that is diametrically opposed to your own vis--vis your research problem?
  • Who and why do they have different ideas concerning the same research problem or topic?
  • What are their ideas?
  • Research these and list them. 

Step Six:  Putting It All Together
  • Review your paper and underline the passages that require support or substantiation.  Find the appropriate reference and place it there.
  • Add a "Definitions" section.  Define your terms from the articles you have found.  Cite them properly.
  • Add a "Backgrounds" section and describe the history and evolution of ideas regarding your research problem.  Be sure to include the dissenting views (the "opposition") to provide a balanced approach.
  • Review the correct style guide and make sure that you are following the proper citation style.  If it is in the area of humanities, it will probably follow MLA or Chicago style; if the social sciences, APA.  If science, consult the discipline and find out the appropriate approach and the rationale for it so that you understand precisely why the references are listed as they are.  Be sure to differentiate between Internet sources, journals, newspapers, interviews, and monograph/books.