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6 Steps to Successful Research

Research is a time-consuming process.  It is often not a straight line from where you begin to where you finish.

There are ways though to focus and save some time within the research process; see the following for strategies and tips:

Ask Questions!

Librarians are always happy to help you with your research.  There are several easy ways to find us:

Research Process:

1.  Question: What question(s) do you want to address in your research?

  • Choose a research topic and find reference sources on your topic
  • Brainstorm promising search terms:
    • Make a list of words that describe your topic. In addition to words for broad concepts (e.g. poverty, feminism), consider more specific keywords such as words describing the following:
      • Event: an event within the context of your topic.
      • Time: a particular time period connected to your topic.
      • Person or group: an individual or group identified with the topic or particularly affected by it.
      • Place: a region, city or other geographical unit connected to your topic.
  • Find background information on your topic using encyclopedias or a specialized dictionary… or Wikipedia, just don’t end your research there.

2.  Find useful sources


3.  Locate the sources that you have found


4. Evaluate sources through close, critical examination

  • Evaluating sources with the 5 W's--Here's an easy-to-remember method for judging sources, adapted from the disciplines of rhetoric and journalism:
    • Who wrote it? A individual or multiple persons? A corporate author?
    • What is it? A book chapter, a book, a print periodical article, a full text article obtained via an online database, a government document, proceedings from a conference, a Web page?
    • Where was it published? Name and location of publishing company, name and domain (.edu., .org or .gov) of a Web site or page.
    • When was it published or updated?
    • Why was this resource created? To entertain, inform, persuade? What is its thesis, its point of view, its hypothesis?
    • How is the item available? In print or electronic form?

  • Don’t hesitate to ask your professor or talk to a librarian about what you’ve found. We can’t make decisions about your topic for you, but we can use our experience to help you think through the process.
  • Is this source scholarly or popular?

5. Create and share your work so others may learn


6. Scholarship and Open Access

Ask a Librarian
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Or, request a Library Lab. Cecilia will get in touch with you to set up an appointment to meet.

Subject Specialist
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Julia Bauder
Social Studies and Data Services Librarian
Tel: 641-269 4431

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Heather Campbell
Humanities and Instruction Librarian
Tel: 641-269 3280

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Rebecca Ciota

Tel: 641-269 4775

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Kevin Engel
Science Librarian
Tel: 641-269 4234

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Chris Jones
Special Collections Librarian and Archivist of the College
Tel: 641-269 3364

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Phil Jones
Humanities Librarian & Coordinator of Research Services
Tel: 641-269 3355

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Cecilia Knight
Acquisitions and Discovery Librarian
Tel: 641-269 3368

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Liz Rodrigues
Humanities and Digital Scholarship Librarian
Tel: 641-269 3362