Research Process


What is Research?

Steps in the process

  1. Receive a research assignment: A paper or presentation is assigned, or a personal decision is required.
    Examples:
    Write a paper that's due in one month.
    OR, Present a speech in class one week from today.
    OR, Prepare a PowerPoint for your boss on a staffing recommendation.
    OR, Your grandfather just left you $8,000.
  2. Select a topic: May be assigned in broad terms, or may be a personal interest.
    Examples
    Write about violence in the media.
    OR, Speak about what happened the day you were born.
    OR, Justify the decision to hire a new person.
    OR, Grandad said "Buy yourself a new vehicle."
  3. Explore the facets of topic/narrow the focus: Ask basic background questions or specific parts of the overall topic. Often requires basic information collection and evaluation.
    Examples
    Collect information on television, movies, video games, anime cartoons, rap music, etc.
    OR, Collect information on world events, state festivals, local politics, celebrity births and deaths, family occurrences, etc.
    OR, Collect information on current staffing and average salaries, comparative staffing and salary studies for your industry, work-group overtime the last year, unemployment rate in your community, etc.
    OR, Collect prices of cars and pickups, repair history ratings, insurance rates, etc.
  4. State a question: This is your thesis, the question that you will answer, and it defines the limits of your problem.
    Examples
    Does the image of women in rap music lead to more date rape?
    OR, What was the headline article in the New York Times on April 1, 1984, and where can I find other information about that event?
    OR, Can we hire an experienced programmer for $22,000/year?
    OR, Can I find a pickup truck that is no more than 3 years old, rates better than average on repair history, and costs less than $7,000 before TT&L?
  5. Decide on the types of sources: Different kinds of questions will require different types of information sources.
    Examples
    General databases such as Academic Search Complete contain current research from hundreds of scholarly and general publications on causes of violence and correlations with movies watched or music preferences.
    OR, National newspapers and news magazines covered current events, and parents or grandparents may be interviewed.
    OR, Industry Web sites and professional journals often cover average salaries and workloads. Local newspapers will have current employment information, and state and government websites and statistical summaries will have unemployment information.
    OR, Consumer magazines report automotive safety and frequency of repair records, and local newspapers and specialty websites have current used car prices.
  6. Collect and evaluate information: Gather data to answer your specific question or thesis. This is often thought of as "research". Too much or too little available information may mean the question has to be restated.
    Examples
    Academic Search Complete contains current research from hundreds of scholarly and general publications on causes of violence and correlations with movies watched or music preferences.
    OR, Print copies of the front page of the New York Times for April 1, 1984, and the cover stories for that week from Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report.
    OR, Consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook for starting salaries.
    OR, The annual auto issue of Consumer Reports has frequency of repair records, and the Amarillo Globe News has current used car prices.
    OR, ALL of these sources should be evaluated to decide if the information is usable.
  7. Is the question answered? You may need additional information, or you may need to restate the question, if not enough information is available.
    Examples
    One source is available, but there are 5 other sources that discuss rap music and violence against women. Restate the question as Does the image of women in rap music cause more violence against women?
    OR, You have five articles discussing the events of your birthday. Start practicing your speech.
    OR, Average industry and area salaries are $5,000 higher. Be ready to justify a higher salary to your boss.
    OR, Used Car Sam has a 2000 Isuzu Hombre S Short Bed pickup for $6,790, and Isuzu ranks as average or better reliability. Let's go shopping.
  8. Make the decision/write the report/prepare the presentation.
    Examples
    Your paper on rap music is turned in and you get an A.
    OR, Your speech wins applause from your classmates.
    OR, Your boss loves the PowerPoint and gives you a raise.
    OR, You've got new wheels!

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