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Five Steps of the Research Process: home


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These "step" pages have been adapted from that of Johnson & Wales University Library (Denver Campus) as well as from the Research & Learning Services Department of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  Stafford Library has received permission to use and adapt these pages.

Five Steps of the Research Process

The research process can be broken down into five broad steps. Most often you complete one step before moving onto the next. However, there may be times when you will need to return to a previous step or complete multiple steps simultaneously.

Step 1. Develop your Topic

Developing a good research topic can sometimes be the most difficult part of the research process. See: Understanding the Assignment, Selecting a Topic, Developing Research Questions, Identifying Keywords, Finding Background Information, and Refining your Topic.

Step 2. Find Sources

Library resources such as books, articles, journals, and videos can be found using the Library Homepage. Use the Stafford Library Discovery Service to search for books, e-books, articles, and videos in one search. To narrow your search, use the links under library resources. See: Types of SourcesSearch Tips.

Step 3. Evaluate your Sources

When doing research, it is important to find information that is reliable and appropriate for your assignment. Some assignments may require you to use certain types of sources such as primary or secondary sources, or specific types of periodicals such as scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. Other assignments may require you to limit the number sources you use. Often Internet sources fall into this category.  In all cases, you should always evaluate the information included in your assignments. See:  Using the CRAAP TestPrimary vs. Secondary Sources, and Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Articles vs. Popular Articles.

Step 4. Incorporate Sources into a Paper

Incorporating sources into your paper is a crucial part of the research process.  See: Avoiding Plagiarism and Paraphrasing.  Also see Using Research by Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL), and  Quoting and Paraphrasing by University of Wisconsin's Writing Center.

Step 5. Cite your Sources

There are quite a few different ways to cite resources in your paper. The citation style usually depends on the academic discipline involved. Check with your professor to make sure you use the required style, and whatever style you choose, be consistent.  See: MLA FormatAPA FormatChicago/Turabian Format, and Other Formats.