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Library Research Tutorial: Adapted from Canvas Course

This Research Guide runs through the same information as the Library Tutorial course in Canvas. Use this guide to quickly access that information without needing to log into Canvas, and use it as a refresher for the main points in the Canvas tutorial.

Notes on the Research Process

  • There are five steps in the research process, but your research may not always follow the five steps in the same order
  • If your attempts to find good, quality information do not succeed, you may need to revise your research topic or change your search terms.

chart showing the connections between the steps of the research process: defining a topic, planning the search, finding information, evaluating information, and citing sources

Steps of the Research Process

Step 1: Define a Topic

  • State the research topic as a question. If you can't do that, you have not thought about it enough.

Step 2: Plan the Search

  • Pick the most important words or terms within the research question.
  • Build a search query that puts those words or terms together logically.

Step 3: Find Information

  • Use the right tools to search for the information you need. At the college or university level, this often includes using the Library's search tools and databases to find published articles and books instead of just searching the Internet for Web pages.

Step 4: Evaluate What You Find 

  • How do you know if the information source is up to date? 
  • Does it really include quality information on your topic, or did you get tired of looking and settle for something that is barely "good enough?" 
  • How can you tell if a source is accurate, and if the person who wrote it really knows about the topic? 
  • What was the writer's purpose - does it present facts, or is it an attempt to present a certain point of view or to change your mind?

Step 5: Cite Your Sources

  • Unless it is common knowledge or your own original idea, information that you find must be cited to avoid plagiarism.
  • Cite your sources in a commonly accepted style (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).