As much as we would like research or information finding to be a “once and done” activity that always gives us an easy and straightforward answer, that just isn’t how it works. More often than not, the first “answer” you find is not always the best one (I’m looking at you, first entry listed in my Google results!). Finding quality information that is credible and represents diverse views takes time and multiple sources. Additionally, finding information related to your initial question or topic can lead to more questions which can lead to even more questions (and some dead ends) that require you to back up and redirect your research. This is a normal part of research and can actually help your understanding of an issue, question, or topic.
“Research is and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.” ACRL Framework for Information Literacy
The more information you learn about what you are researching, the more you are able to engage with the topic. You’ll learn what terminology is used by people to discuss the topic, what some major debates or controversies surround the topic, etc. All of this information can help you ask the right questions and lead you to sources that are credible, authoritative, evidence-based, and reflect varying viewpoints.
The Research Process
There are many ways to approach the research process, and your particular strategy will vary depending on the specific research need you have. However, it is helpful to understand the common steps of the research process, so you can use it to guide you regardless of what it is you are searching for. For the purpose of this book, we will focus on research strategies that relate to academic assignments or projects, although they can most certainly be applied to professional and personal research needs as well.
- Research is a process.
- The search for information takes time because you are learning along the way.
- Your research question should and will evolve as you learn more about the topic.
- You want to actively seek out multiple sources and voices that will truly allow you to shape your understanding and opinion of the topic.
- Breathe through it and enjoy the learning.
repeating similar steps or actions