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ENGL0900 Critical Reading and Writing: The Academic Essay

The following five steps guide you through the research process.

Address these steps as you go, using the prompts to provide important documentation of your research.

You may find yourself going back to previous steps and re-working your topic as you learn more about it. This is normal and very common in the research process! The key is to stay organized, be persistent, and think creatively.

1. Think About Your Topic

  1. Write a phrase or sentence describing your research topic. Then underline the most important words in that phrase or sentence.
  2. Write a list of synonyms and related terms or phrases for each of the words you underlined.

This list will provide you with an important bank of keywords to use in your searches. Your keyword bank should grow as you learn more about your topic, so keep adding to it!

2. Build Your Search Statement

What combination of words did you put into a search box to retrieve the best results? 

Using tips and tricks found here, combine keywords from your keyword bank to write two or three effective search statements.

3. Choose Your Sources

You have been given primary sources to use for your research. Next, find relevant secondary sources in databases.

In which database(s) have you chosen to perform your searches and why?

4. Evaluate Your Sources

Doing research is like building a house: you must be sure the materials you use for your foundation are top-notch, or your house will collapse!

It's important to evaluate every source you include in your research.  Evaluate each of your chosen sources. Briefly defend each choice, including the quality of the information, the authority of the writers, and how the source addresses your research topic.

5. Review and Reflect

The research process is rarely straightforward. You may hit dead ends, or follow an unexpected path. That's what makes it so exciting (and sometimes frustrating)-- you always learn something new, and you're always left with unanswered questions.

Reflect on your research process. What did you find challenging about researching, and what did you learn? Knowing what you now know, what might you do differently if you were to start from the beginning? Do you have any questions you'd like to explore further?