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  • Made Easy

Information Literacy Periodicals
Librarian (845)848-7506 M-F 8am-4pm
The Step by Step Approach to Research
  • Pre-Topic
  • Step 1 Understand the assignment
  • Step 2 Remove all preconceptions
  • Step 3 Practice time management and set
  • Step 4 Create a folder
  • Step 5 Find a topic and basic information
    about it
  • Post-Topic
  • Step 6 Narrow your topic to a focused research
  • Step 7 Gather information
  • Step 8 Write your thesis statement Step 9
    Weed out irrelevant information
  • This PowerPoint covers the following
  • Finding a topic the Pre-Topic section.
  • Narrowing your topic into a research question or
    statement the Post-Topic section
  • Constructing a thesis statement from your
    research question
  • Thus topic research question
    thesis statement

Use of research time
  • Step by Step Research
    Percent of time
  • STEP 1 - Getting started planning the process
  • STEP 2 - Discovering and choosing a topic
  • STEP 3 - Forming a focused research question
  • STEP 4 - Gathering information detail research
  • STEP 5 Writing AND Post-Writing

Step 1 Understand the assignment
  • Before you consider your topic . . .
  • What does your teacher expect?
  • Read the instructions so you know what your
    instructor has in mind for the type of paper you
    need to write. This will determine the approach.
  • Example of what can affect your approach
  • The research topic is clearly specified, OR
  • The research topic is chosen by you

Working with a clearly specified topic . . .
  • Look over the assignment. What key words do you
    find in the instructions?
  • Does the assignment ask that you describe,
    survey, analyze, persuade, explain, classify,
    compare, or contrast?
  • What do such words mean in the field you are
  • TIP Look over the instructions of the assignment
    again one day prior to the paper being due, to
    make sure that you do not miss anything important
    which might affect your final grade.

Working with a topic chosen by you . . .
  • Consider the following questions
  • What subjects do you already know something
  • Which subjects were discussed in class that you
    are interested in?
  • What subjects look interesting when you browse
    the course materials (including textbook)?

be careful dont skip the basics
  • If you think of an audience outside of just your
  • instructor, it will help you to explain your
    topic more
  • clearly. Think of writing for someone who does
    not have
  • as much experience in this subject area.
  • You need to prove you understand the material
  • covered. You cannot do this well if you skip over
  • foundation, assuming your instructor already
    knows it.
  • TIP The foundation of your paper can be either
    books (if allowed) or journal articles which
    speak about your topic in general terms. For
    example a book about diabetes or a journal
    article overview about diabetes, when your actual
    topic is treatment of diabetes in the elderly in
    a nursing home setting.

Know your audience ask yourself . . .
  • Who will be interested in the information you
    gather? Why?
  • What assumptions might they hold about the topic?
  • What response do you want to elicit from them?
  • What kinds of evidence will you need to convince
    them of your view?
  • What will your supervisor or instructor expect?

Terms to know
  • Topic For research the subject matter at hand.
  • Research Question A narrower (focused)
    perspective on the topic.
  • Thesis statement The main point of your paper,
    which cannot be determined until after research
    and analysis is complete and you have narrowed
    down your topic into a research question (or
  • The topic you select should match the following
  • Your interests and knowledge
  • The purpose of the assignment
  • The type of paper (report, issue, argument,
  • The length of the paper (most important)

Step 2 - Remove all preconceptions
  • Some of the preconceptions held by students
    before beginning their research are
  • 1. Doing this paper will be easy.
  • 2. Doing this paper will be hard.
  • 3. I should be able to find all the materials I
    need easily. Even if I cannot, I will be able
    to get them from somewhere else in a day or two
    at most.
  • 4. I will find everything I need on the
  • 5. I have plenty of time to do this, so I will
    start it later.
  • Dont worry weve all thought one or more of
    these at one time or another. The key is to stop
    thinking it and start the project!

Step 3 Practice time management and set
  • Ideally, you should begin the research
    process as soon as possible after receiving your
  • A short paper, up to 8 pages, may take four
    weeks whereas a longer paper of 15 pages or more
    will take the entire semester.
  • Therefore, it is important to assign a
    deadline for each step of the project.

Undertake one step at a time
  • As you work on your assignment, break it down
    into smaller units, day by day. For example,
    focus on one part of your argument and only find
    sources for that before you move on to another
  • Cant find the information you need?
  • Dont quit! Keep looking and rephrase your
    question until you locate what you need. Some
    aspects of a topic are better covered than
    others. Ask your professor or a librarian for
    help if you need!
  • TIP When you are searching, it is very helpful
    if you know some synonyms of your search terms.
    Dont restrict yourself to one search. How else
    can you say it?
  • Develop your search terms handout

Step 4 Create a folder
  • Before you begin your searching, create a
    folder and label it with a name that will be easy
    to identify, such as Research Folder for the
    affects of Alzheimers on the patients
    caregiving children.
  • To help you with creating this folder the
    Library provides RefWorks, an online research
    management, writing and collaboration tool.
  • RefWorks is designed to help researchers
    easily gather, manage, store and share all types
    of information, as well as generate in-text
    citations and bibliographies (your Works Cited
    page). http//
  • Undergraduates might prefer instead,
    although it does not have as many features.

Step 5 Find a topic and basic information
about it
  • Do you need a topic? Yes? Most students dont
    know what they are going to use right away
  • Thumb through your textbook or course pack.
    Browse the table of contents, index, chapter
    headings, and subheadings.
  • Look on the internet (Google, Wikipedia, etc) for
    topic ideas and for good search terms to use
  • For books, try http// (Google

Preliminary sources to develop a research
  • The Library Portal Page (http//
  • The Library Catalog (Portal Page, click Librarys
    Online Card Catalog)
  • Books, E-Books, E-Resources, Print Journals, and
    Microfilm Journals
  • Do a words or phrase search. If you have more
    than one aspect to your topic, put an and in
    between. Diabetes and elderly
  • Electronic Databases (Portal Page, click Remote
    Database Access)
  • Reference Material
  • Encyclopedias (in print in our reference section
    or through our databases Credo Reference and
    Encyclopedia Britannica)
  • Dictionaries, Fact Books, Handbooks
  • Subject guides at http//

Write down what you find
  • While you search for a topic you will
    raise questions or formulate ideas. Be sure to
    take record of these. Also take record of
    anything that you think might be a useful search
    keyword or phrase.
  • TIP Write down the keywords you have
    already searched for, and where you searched for
    them. Then you can see the progress you have
    made, and not accidentally repeat searches you
    have already done!
  • Sullivan Librarys handouts page includes
  • a research log for documenting where and what you
    searched for
  • a citation log for documenting the sources you

Creating an outline
  • While searching for your topic, be aware of any
    possible focuses you find, but take care to not
    get sidetracked by information that is not
    directly pertinent for the task at hand.
  • Create a brief outline for the paper, even if
    your professor does not assign you one.
  • Outline help
  • NOTE Off-campus users without an established
    account need to log-in first, select EasyBib,
    then look at Citation Guide at the top. Look for
    the outline section on the left side.

Step 6 Narrow your topic to a focused research
  • Have you gathered your preliminary information
    and organized the notes that you currently have?
  • It is time to focus on narrowing your information
    down to a desired research question.
  • Review all of the information that you have
    collected. Your research question will be based
    upon your interest and the information that you
    have been able to locate in your preliminary
  • TIP Write down the research question so you know
    you have a concrete topic to work with and you
    can put it into words!

Deciding on the final research question (Cont.)
  • Do you find yourself unable to figure out how to
    mention everything you have found in the page
    limit you have been given? Do you have too many
    different (yet possibly remotely related) ideas
    to cover? You need to narrow down your topic
    still and restate it either as a statement or a
  • For instance
  • risk management with dementia patients
  • could be narrowed down to
  • pros and cons for using physical restraints
    with dementia patients (this is a type of risk
  • NOTE You must narrow down your topic before you
    can construct a thesis statement.

Post Topic . . . Step 7 Gather sources for your
  • Serious research begins
  • Make sure you have citation information for all
    sources you find
  • You should be inputting your sources into
    programs like RefWorks or EasyBib
  • Shift your focus to database searches and/or
    library catalog searches
  • Move away from the general internet, except for
    search term harvesting or Google Scholar
    (http// for journal articles
  • Note there is no subject searching and there is
    no peer-reviewed limiter
  • However, it does let you see who cited a
    particular article and also related articles
    close to the article you are looking at.
  • Information about each source
  • Paperclip an index card to each item with
    information about why you chose it, and any page
    numbers where you took quotes or paraphrased
  • Research guide
  • NOTE Off-campus users without an established
    account need to log-in first, select EasyBib,
    then look at Citation Guide at the top. Look for
    the research section on the left side.

  • The Library Catalog Books, E-Books, E-Resources,
    Print Journals, and or journals on microfilm
    (print/microfilm journals are located in the
    periodical section of the library past the
    computer lab)
  • Electronic Databases (off the Portal Page)
  • Definition databases are a collection of online
    journals, which in turn are a collection of
    journal articles
  • Databases provide either an article citation
    (abstract) or the entire article itself
    (full-text) online (PDFs, HTML, etc)
  • Searching EBSCOhost Handout http//sullivanlibrar
  • These are the prime resources to use after you
    have constructed your topic (post-topic)

  • Web sites
  • Over three thousand are available through the
    Librarys Portal page under Internet Resources
    on the Web, or click here)
  • Website Evaluation Handout http//sullivanlibrary
  • Also see UC Berkeleys website evaluation
    checklist (Google for it).
  • You can also use reputable gateway sites which
    generally lead to more authoritative websites.
  • Infomine (Scholarly Internet Resource
    Collections) http//
  • Intute (British based but has global resources)
  • Internet Public Library (try others first)
  • These are the prime resources to use after you
    have constructed your topic (post-topic)

Step 8 Create your thesis statement
  • Once you have gathered all sources that you are
    going to use and cite, and you have your final
    research question, look at constructing your
    thesis statement.
  • It is the main point of your paper.
  • As you are reading through each source, look for
    the main point(s) of each and write them down.
  • Use these points to create an outline it is
    hard to make a thesis statement without first
    establishing an outline
  • Writing a thesis statement
  • NOTE Off-campus users without an established
    account need to log-in first, select EasyBib,
    then look at Citation Guide at the top. Look for
    the research section on the left side.

Create Your Thesis Statement
  • Before you begin writing, create the thesis
    statement. This is accomplished by condensing the
    main point of your paper to a single statement.
    Hamilton College (Williams Reidy) gives this
    explanation of the thesis statement
  • A well-written thesis statement, usually
    expressed in one sentence, is the most important
    sentence in your entire paper. It should both
    summarize for your reader the position you will
    be arguing and set up the pattern of organization
    you will use in your discussion. A thesis
    sentence is not a statement of accepted fact it
    is the position that needs the proof you will
    provide in your argument. Your thesis should
    reflect the full scope of your argumentno more
    and no less beware of writing a thesis statement
    that is too broad to be defended within the scope
    of your paper.

Create Your Thesis Statement (Cont.)
  • Another way to summarize the nature and function
    of the thesis statement is that it is a single
    sentence, usually in the first paragraph of the
    paper, which
  • declares the position you are taking in your
  • sets up the way you will organize your
    discussion, and
  • points to the conclusion you will draw.
  • EXAMPLE THESIS Although the current trend for
    aggressive or wandering dementia patients is to
    use physical restraints, there is a growing body
    of evidence that electronic alarm devices provide
    a better long-term prognosis for the patients
    emotional and physical well-being.

Step 9 - Weed out irrelevant information
  • Guess what? Now that you have all those
    wonderful notes and citations from your research,
    you're going to have to get rid of some of them!
  • No matter how profound and interesting the
    information is, if it doesn't relate to and
    support the thesis you've chosen, don't try to
    cram it into the paperjust sigh deeply and set
    it aside. You'll have easier time writing if you
    do this weeding before you start.
  • TIP As mentioned in step 5, if you create an
    outline, there will be less difficulty in
    deciding what to use and not use.

  • Dont forget little mistakes can really hurt
    your paper.
  • Writing Post-Writing should be 40 of your time
  • also makes
  • a writing guide
  • a proofreading / revising guide
  • NOTE Off-campus users without an established
    account need to log-in first, select EasyBib,
    then look at Citation Guide at the top. Look for
    the relevant guides on the left side.

Citing Sources
  • Here are some alternatives to using RefWorks
  • EasyBib
  • On Campus http// - create a
    free premium account to use forever.
  • Off Campus Log into http//, choose
    EasyBib, and create a free premium account (With
    it, you do not need to log into the databases
  • APA Formatting and Style Guide The OWL at Purdue
    reference list and in-text
  • http//
  • MLA Formatting and Style Guide The OWL at Purdue
    reference list and in-text
  • http//
  • Many library databases will give you the
    citation. You just need to double check it for
    accuracy. The EBSCOhost handout tells you how
    (page 5, item record image, cite option)
  • http//
    reference list

If we dont have it . . .
  • If the Library does not have a particular
    book, book chapter, or journal article which you
    are looking for, please feel to visit this
    address to submit a request
  • https//