The Learning Commons


Research Process

1. First Step - Emotional Fight

Most people, not only you, experience certain negative feelings when they begin their research. They are overwhelmed by the uncertainty of research topic and they are often confused at where to start and how to complete the research. Don't worry because this is very natural. To overcome these negative feelings, I recommend you follow this research process step by step.

2. Define Your Topic - Personalizing the topics

First of all, we must clearly know the goal of research. Ask frankly if you know what you are trying to find. This question will lead you to specify your research topic and to have a concrete idea on it. Unless an exciting topic does not occur to your heart, it is hard to have the passion for your research, so that you may not produce a 'creative' writing.

The work of defining can be called as 'personalizing.' Usually, the assignment provides just a general guideline. The real topic of essay has to be decided by yourself. For example, why does the idea of incarnation matter for Christian theologians? Do the christologies of ancient theologians make sense to us today? If not, why not? If yes, what sense? By questioning your topic, you will get a more detailed picture of research.

Try these steps to personalize your research topic:

1) Questioning your reasoning

2) Chatting with friends or professors

3) Referring to dictionaries and encyclopedias

4) Reading articles that deal with the same topic 

 Once you have specified your topic, you will get better ideas about the contents of information that you need for your research. And you can have clearer idea about 'potential keywords' that you will need for database search.

3. Find location by resource formats - Contents vs. Formats

Information is contained in different formats: books, journal articles, multimedia, references, web resources, government documents, etc. Depending on which kind of the contents of information you are looking for, you may need to count on different formats of resource.

For example, you are given an assignment to write your reflection about the writings of ancient authors. You cannot find their writings in journal articles. It is proper to check Christian classic collections. Let's say that you want to embellish the introduction of your paper with a contemporary story. It is good to check news articles. Giving one more example, assuming that you are looking for the basic information about the life of an ancient author, you must refer to reference resources like a dictionary or encyclopedia.

4. Searching - Search query & Subject heading

If you need a thorough research, you may use different databases and online catalogs to get more chances to get desired resources. Basic boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) work in the most of databases. However, it is better that you refer to 'Help' page to learn specifics and advanced skills on each database. This part may look too technical. However, you can save lots of time with discreet consideration of your searching queries.

If you have a topic in mind, you can improve your search with using subject headings. Subject headings are controlled vocabulary which librarians use when they catalog books. They classified books by subjects first and then added related subjects to the book record, so that library users can move to other subject-related books.

5. Selecting findings

Several factors can be considered:

1) Scope - Does it deal with issues related to your topic? Doesit state the purpose and methodology of the research?

2) Authority - Does an author have academic credentials? You canfind brief biography on the back cover or on Internet.

3) Up-to-Date - When was it published? In case of a database, how frequently is the database indexed?

4) Accessibility - Can you acquire books or articles immediately? If not, how will you get them?