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Research Guides By Subject
Basic Research Process
Step 1: Choosing a topic
- Review the guidelines for your assignment from your instructor.
- Choose something that sparks your interest.
- Talk with your instructor, library staff, peers, and people working in the field of study for ideas.
- Still undecided, it is OK to Google a topic you are interested and determine what is currently relevant in that particular topic.
Step 2: Gather Background Information
Generate search words to find background resources.
- Consult reference resources – such as textbooks, encyclopedias, summaries, histories, or stop by the library to ask for assistance.
- Read news and academic journal articles to learn more about your topic and pinpoint research gaps or what interest that you would like to focus on.
- Do a preliminary search on your topic to get a head start on the next phase of research. While browsing, be sure to look for:
- potential research subtopics
- major works and key issues related to your topic
- key authors in your area of research
Step 3: Developing a Research Question
A research question allows you to focus your research and create a thesis statement – as the answer to your question is your thesis statement:
- Explore different questions related to your topic:
- Ask “how” and “why” questions about your general topic.
- Consider the importance of the topic.
- Identify one or two questions that can actually be explored through research.
- Narrow your question with the following types of parameters (among others):
- Time period (era, century, decade, year, etc.)
- Population or demographic (gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, culture, etc.))
- Region and/or country (USA, US South, NC, Southeastern NC, etc.)
- Perspective (discipline, philosophy, ideology, etc.)
Step 4: Writing a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is a one or two sentence answer to your research question.
Step 5: Test. Research. Write.
Test your topic in the Montgomery Community College Library’s research databases and the library catalog to see if you can ACTUALLY FIND RESEARCH to answer your question. Then…:
- Generate search terms for your research question.
- Test those search terms in our library catalog.
- Test those search terms in our research databases.
- Narrow your topic, as needed – add parameters.
- Broaden your topic, as needed – subtract parameters.
- Repeat steps 1-5, as needed.
- SETTLE ON THE RESEARCH QUESTION.
- RESEARCH YOUR QUESTION – FIND THE ANSWER!
- WRITE YOUR THESIS STATEMENT – THE ANSWER!
- PROVE YOUR THESIS STATEMENT- WRITE YOUR PAPER!
Narrow your initial topic and research question(s) as much as possible! General topics yield masses of general research! You can always broaden your topic later!
Database Search Tips
Evaluate Sources for Reliability
Popular vs. Scholarly Articles
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Using AND, OR, NOT in Searching Effectively
Writing in the Disciplines