Below is a guide to help you research smarter and gain a better understanding of your sources and source selection process.
- The first step in the research process is identification of the problem you are trying to solve. This requires written acknowledgment of what you are looking for and why. Spend some time thinking about this and write down at least three detailed reasons. The more work you do on the front end will save you time in the long run.
Here are some questions to help guide this process:
- Do you need an answer to a question?
- Are you trying to prove or disprove a fact or hypothesis?
- Are you collecting information to compare and contrast?
- After you have determined the problem statement or research question, consider what you might already know about the subject of inquiry. I often complete this step by brainstorming in two categories: material information and sources.
Use the following questions as a guide:
- What do I already know about the topic?
- What do I think I know?
- What do I definitively not know?
- What do I need to know?
- Who is an authority (individual or organization) on the subject?
- Is there someone I can call or email directly for more information?
- Be sure to complete the brainstorm for both the information and source sections. This is a critical step because it will force you to identify what exactly you know and the sources you have relied on for that information. It will call attention to whether or not you are relying on a sufficient number and type of sources. High quality research depends upon information collection from a diverse group of sources (both online and offline).
- Review and analyze your responses, note any gaps and the emergence of any patterns.
- Link up the lingering questions with possible source of information in a Research question matrix. Note any lingering questions or missing sources.
- Begin your research collection.