What is A Research Process?
A research process is a step-by-step approach for developing a research paper. It generally involves several activities such as:
Some activities might be simultaneous. You might develop and refine your question after locating and evaluating your sources. Your search for relevant sources may continue after you read and analyze some sources and refer to their references/bibliographies.
Step 1: Identify and Develop Your Topic
You need to know what you're researching and writing about before you can begin doing anything. Narrow down your research topic by developing a focused research question. Identify the main concepts or keywords related to that topic so you know what to search terms to use.
See "Developing a Research Question" in this guide for more instruction on developing your topic.
Step 2: Locate and Evaluate Your Sources
Using the library catalog and online databases, collect articles, books, or other sources with information on your research topic. Look specifically for materials that will answer all or part of your research question.
Make sure that the information you find comes from reliable sources. Your professor may have requested you use only scholarly or peer-reviewed sources. More information on evaluating sources for reliability can be found in the "Evaluating Sources" section of this guide.
Step 3: Analyze Information and Brainstorm Ideas
This can be done concurrently with step two. As you read through the research you've gathered, think about the main ideas that appear in each source. Take notes and/or highlight as you read, keeping track of information or quotations you'd like to use and cite in your paper.
Step 4: Outline Your Paper
This can be done concurrently with step three. Collect your ideas and citations and create an outline for your paper. This can be as detailed or as basic as you want. It's a good idea to organize your thoughts before you begin writing to avoid needing to make major edits later.
Step 5: Draft Your Paper
Now that you have an outline, it's time to start writing. As you write you may find that you need to adjust your outline or go back and find more sources or citations to support your thoughts.
Step 6: Edit, Correct, and Revise
When you draft is finished, spend time reading through it to catch typos, grammatical errors, missed citations, or incomplete thoughts. Better yet, have someone else read through it for you. Often we miss typos or confusing wording in our own writing because we know what we're trying to say.
Step 7: Finalize Paper and Cite Your Sources
Make sure that your paper and it's works cited are correctly formatted. If you're not certain what citation format you professor wants, don't be afraid to ask. If you need help formatting your citations, ask a librarian or use our Citation Guide.