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Getting Ready for Research

This guide provides an overview of basic research techniques and resources.

A Quick Word on Time Management

One of the most difficult things for students who are new to research is to effectively manage and plan out their time. Often, students allow them the same amount of time to complete their assignments each week regardless of complexity or scope. This habit can lead to some stressful situations and unhappy moments. 

Developing and using good time management skills can help students to avoid these types of situations. Below is just one simple strategy that may help you to more effectively plan out your time. 

Time Management Process

The Time Management Process:

  1. Identify the tasks involved. 
    1. Prioritize the tasks as they are identified. 
    2. Use a prioritization system such as the Eisenhower Matrix
  2. Estimate the time needed to complete each task.
  3. Schedule externally controlled activities such as class, work or family obligations. 
  4. Schedule internally controlled activities such as meals, breaks, sleep, etc. 
  5. Put everything together in a visual schedule. Create a checklist and print a schedule or use one of the many time management apps out there.

Getting Started

Good planning can result in successful research. While many of us are accustomed to quickly entering our search terms into Google or another favorite search engine, a search in an academic database or EGCC’s Gateway Search will be more successful with a little bit of planning. While this may sound a bit daunting, planning for your research project is not unlike planning for a new project or purchase in the home.

Library research can be broken down into the following components.

The Research Process:
  • Step 1: Choose Your Topic
  • Step 2: Gather Background Information
  • Step 3: Focus Your Research ~ Locate Information Sources
  • Step 4: Evaluate Your Sources
  • Step 5: Use Your Information Responsibly and Ethically

These are the five basic steps in the research process. For a more in-depth explanation and video tutorial of each step please continue reading.

Step 1: Choose Your Topic

The first step in any research project is to identify what information you need. Often, the information you need may be outlined in the assignment or project instructions. However, in open-ended projects where you choose the topic, you will first need to identify and then develop a researchable topic. 

Choosing a research topic is simple if you follow these three simple steps:

  1. Brainstorming / Prewriting
  2. Preliminary Research
  3. Broaden or Narrow Your Topic

For a walk-through on how to choose your research topic, complete EGCC Library's Choosing a Research Topic Tutorial.

Tip: The topic you select should be interesting to you. It is much easier to research something you care about and that you want to learn more about.

Step 2: Gather Background Information

Once you identify your potential topic you will want to gather some background information. One way to do this is to look up your topic in an encyclopedia (both general and subject-specific) or to use a Research Starter from our Gateway Search.  

Tip: Sometimes, attitudes toward topics change over time, in these cases you will want to have a better historical understanding of your topic. If your topic is one of these, consider reading information sources that were contemporary to each of those attitudes.

Step 3: Focus Your Research ~ Locate Information Sources

Once you have completed steps 1 & 2 it is time to focus your research. At this point in your search you will want to gather current information on your topic. One of the best ways to do this is to search for information in periodicals, journals, and trade publications relevant to your topic.  

For a walk-through on how to find scholarly articles, complete EGCC Library's Finding Scholarly Articles Tutorial.

Tip: Use the database’s built in filters to limit your search results, these can often be found on either side of the search results.

When conducting research on the open web only use information from quality websites where authorship, credibility and accuracy can be verified. Remember you can ask us for help if you are having difficulty finding information for your topic.

Tip: Professional and Trade association websites often post the work of their members and can be valuable sources of current information. 

It is important to organize the information you find. To do this, you can create a folder in our databases, which will allow you to save your articles. Visit this FAQ page to learn how to create folders. You can also use free programs like Zotero to save and organize your research and to help you properly cite your work. 

To learn more about searching strategies, please visit the Searching for Information tab.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Sources

Once you have collected your resources you should evaluate them before using their information. Some people do this step as they go along, others collect a number of sources first and then evaluate, either way is fine, just don’t forget to evaluate your sources!

For a walk-through on how to evaluate websites and other information sources, complete EGCC Library's Evaluating Websites Tutorial.

Evaluating your sources is one of the most important steps in the research process. Using inaccurate information can be costly. In the workplace, unreliable information cause harm, damage, or even cost you your job. The resources below review two useful evaluation frameworks: the CRAAP Test and the RADAR Framework. For more information on evaluating information, please visit the Evaluating Information tab.

Step 5: Use Your Information Responsibly and Ethically

Technology has greatly increased our ability to access and use information. However, just because we can freely access information doesn’t mean that it doesn’t belong to someone else. Be sure that you are able to legally and ethically use the information that you have found.

When you use an information source, be sure to cite the source even if you do not quote directly from it. If you have questions about citing a source, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your professor, the library, or tutoring services at EGCC.

For a walk-through on how to ethically use and cite information sources, complete EGCC Library's Avoiding Plagiarism Tutorial.