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Research Process

I. Identify and Refine Your Topic

What is your question? Do you have a broad topic or is it much more specific?

What is it that you actually need to know?

Break down the question into meaningful parts.
At this point you want  to consider all of the issues that need to be addressed.

Brainstorm keywords, synonyms, broader and narrower terms, and additional questions.


Have you arrived at questions that can be answered?

Conduct some background research.  Consult research guides, reference resources and subject encyclopedias, articles, reliable websites, and books.

Begin to identify key terms found in the literature.

Consider what you find. Is there enough information to proceed?

Group "like" types of information together for the next steps.

Consider the questions you've generated from the above exercise.  You've thought about whether these are questions that can be answered. Now think about who might collect or provide the information you need -- a government department, a scholarly database, a news website, a company, a professional or trade association, etc. Now it's time to move on to thinking about resources.

II. Find and Evaluate Resources

What entity might gather the information you are seeking?

What resources are available to you?  Does Tulane have databases or books that you can use?

If you've arrived at a topic or question that requires resources that are unavailable to you, go back to the topic selection process.

Evaluate your sources for credibility, currency, accuracy.

What are the author's credentials?  Is the author an expert on this subject?

How current is the information? When was the article written?  When was the website last updated?

III. Remember...

Research is an iterative process. You will likely start over a few times and repeat several steps along the way. This is typically the case for all researchers.

Before beginning any type of research, you need to understand the overall expectations and desired outcome.  Do you need to produce a brief report for a manager or a detailed literature review for a professor?  Or, is the assignment a class presentation? Are you trying to learn the history of a company or chart the evolution of an industry? Or do you need to find data to create a financial model? Clarifying the expectations will help you when you move to the first phase of research: selecting a topic and framing your research question.

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