6 Steps to Successful Research
Research is a time-consuming process. It is often not a straight line from where you begin to where you finish. There are ways, though, to focus and save time within the research process; see the following for strategies and tips:
Librarians and research tutors are always happy to help you with your research. There are several easy ways to find us:
- Find your consulting librarian
- Request a Library Lab
- Provide feedback for a Library Lab
- See a student research tutor at the Research Desk in Burling (Sunday–Wednesday: 2–6 p.m. and 7–11 p.m.).
- Ask at the circulation desk for the on-call librarian (Monday–Wednesday: 8 a.m.–noon, and Thursday-Friday: 8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m.).
1. Question: What question(s) do you want to address in your research?
Choose a topic and find reference sources on your topic.
Brainstorm promising search terms. Make a list of words that describe your topic. In addition to words for broad concepts (e.g. poverty, feminism), consider more specific keywords such as words describing the following:
- Event: an event within the context of your topic.
- Time: a particular time period connected to your topic.
- Person or group: an individual or group identified with the topic or particularly affected by it.
- Place: a region, city or other geographical unit connected to your topic.
Find background information on your topic using encyclopedias or a specialized dictionary… or Wikipedia — just don’t end your research there.
2. Identify useful sources.
Use library subject guides to choose relevant book and article databases.
Create a search statement to use in databases or the catalog.
Find statistics and data sets (step-by-step guide).
3. Locate the sources that you identified.
JournalFinder (for access to online and print journals, magazines, newspapers, and ebooks).
Library Catalog (for print books, ebooks, films, and many other resources both print and online).
Find items at libraries beyond Grinnell.
4. Evaluate sources through close, critical examination.
Evaluating sources with the 5 W's: Here's an easy-to-remember method for judging sources, adapted from the disciplines of rhetoric and journalism:
- Who wrote it? An individual or multiple persons? A corporate author?
- What is it? A book chapter, a book, a print periodical article, a full text article obtained via an online database, a government document, proceedings from a conference, a Web page?
- Where was it published? Name and location of publishing company, name and domain (.edu., .org or .gov) of a website or page.
- When was it published or updated?
- Why was this resource created? To entertain, inform, persuade? What is its thesis, its point of view, its hypothesis?
- How is the item available? In print or electronic form?
- Is this source scholarly or popular?
Don’t hesitate to ask your professor or talk to a librarian about what you’ve found. We can’t make decisions about your topic or sources for you, but we can use our experience and expertise to help you think through the process.
5. Create and share your work so others may learn.
Visit the Writing Lab.
Organize your sources and generate bibliographies.
Poster Making Tips
Digital Grinnell: shares scholarly and creative work created at the College with the world.
Venues for Presenting Research: submit your research or MAP project to a conference or for publication.
6. Scholarship and Open Access