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502-APA-MS: Perspectives I - Arts, Literature and Communication (Spriggs and Pagé): The research process

This guide supports Megan Spriggs' and Sylvain Page's Perspectives I course. It contains information on how to do research, as well as useful information on where to look for the best sources.

The research process

Whether you're looking for information from books, journals, films, even information online, you're always using some form the same four-step process. If you were to diagram this process, it would look something like this:

You'll notice that the four boxes in the above diagram (what we'll call the "steps" of the process from here on out) are arranged in a circle. This is because the research process isn't entirely linear. While one step of the process leads to the next, there is still a lot of back and forth between the steps, and a need to cycle back through earlier steps to refine and improve your searches. You'll always start with a topic selection, which is why it's at the top of the diagram, but, as you conduct research, your research plan may cause you to refocus your topic, or the sources you find may cause you to change your research plan so that you can find new material, or the evaluation of the sources you find may cause you to rethink your topic entirely.

Any time you do a search, you'll likely have to cycle through this process several times before you have everything that you need. The important thing to remember is that this is how it works for everyone. Don't get frustrated, and, if you're stuck, don't hesitate to ask for help.

Now, on to the steps of the process!

Step one - Topic selection

Each time you do research, you always start by choosing a topic. The topic is what you want to research; what you want to know more about. It can be something as simple as "Who was Leonardo Da Vinci?", or something complex, like "What role does colonialism play in William Shakespeare's The Tempest?" The topic is the question that you want to answer. It always helps with research to take some time to think about your topic and try to identify all the aspects of the topic you might want to explore. Even just taking a pen and some paper and writing down ideas will help you better understand your topic, which will be helpful for your research.

Step two - Creating a research plan

Creating a research plan is the next step of the research process. It starts immediately after you've chosen a topic.

When you create a research plan, you're doing two things:

  1. You're deciding where to look for the information you need. Are you going to use the Library Catalogue, one or more of our subscription databases, one or more of our reference databases, a print reference book or even Google? It's important to know where to look for a given type of information because it will make the research process quicker and more efficient.
  2. You're taking your selected topic, and you're turning it into something you can use to search for materials. This is simple process that, when followed correctly, can help you find exactly what your need.

To help you create you're own research plan, the Library has put together a step-by-step guide on the Creating a Research Plan page.

Step three - Finding sources

The next step is to take your research plan and use it to find information about your topic.  However, while a research plan helps you get the most out of online catalogues and databases, you also need to know where to look to find what you need. If you need a book, for example, you'll want to look at the Library's Catalogue or in our eBook databases. If you're looking for journal articles, you're better off using one of our journal databases, and so on.

To help you find the resources you need, the Library section of the Marianopolis Website groups resources according to type, so that all the book resources are grouped together, all the journal resources are grouped together, etc. . . . The Library has also created a list of useful sources for information on the Finding sources page of this guide.

Step four - Evaluating sources

The "final" step is the research process is possibly also the trickiest part of the research process. In this step, you need to take the sources of information that you've found and figure out if they are reliable, useful and appropriate for your research.

To help you with evaluate sources, the library has put together the Evaluating Information: The PAARC test page in this guide.

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