The 5 Steps on How to Research a Topic

Researching information on a topic is fundamental to understanding it, which is key for getting a high-grade on your assignment. If you have ever wondered how to research effectively, this research guide will teach you how to do research, and which tools to use for your success in studies and at work.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What Is Research?

Research is a careful investigation of a study with regard to a particular concern or problem using scientific methods. Research usually involves either inductive and deductive methods.

You will need to use inductive research methods to analyze an observed event. Also, it is vital to use deductive methods to verify the observed event. Inductive approaches are associated with qualitative research, while deductive methods are more commonly associated with quantitative research. There are many ways to research information, including doing research, online or offline. The objectives for conducting research can differ as well. You may simply need research for collecting information, validating sources, or creating a bibliography for your paper. Interested in finding out some good ways to research any information? – Then read our article! The following are the 5 steps for how to make research.

5 Steps for How to Research

There are several ways to research information. Even still, there is a general structure that can make the whole process easier to follow. Read these steps to help you conduct research in an efficient and organized way.  

Step 1: Pick a Topic

When choosing a topic for your writing project, you should consider these ways to do it:

  • Work Within the Assigned Parameters
    To get the best grade, follow the assignment’s instructions for what you should write about. However, if you weren’t given rigid limits, stick to the five-paragraph essay format as a safe bet.
  • Select a Topic of Personal Interest
    If you force yourself to research a topic you have no passion for, you’re likely not to have the enthusiasm needed for doing in-depth research. The quality of your paper will reflect this, and the result will not reflect your best work.
  • Find a Question to Answer Through the Research
    While researching, you should be asking yourself questions about the material. If you end up with an unanswered question, you’ve found your topic. These types of questions are usually those that you can find being discussed among experts in the field. Quite often, they might cover them in a lecture on YouTube, in a TED Talk, or a university campus debate.

The questions you should be asking yourself begin with:

For example, if you picked researching the current pop culture preferences of North American teenagers:your “Who?” are teenagers;
your “What?” are pop culture preferences;
your “Where?” is North America;
your “Why?” is probably Market Research;
and your “When?” is in and around the current year.

Therefore, when you research, you will ask yourself if the data you find is connected to the answers to those parameters for questioning.

Step 2: Are There Enough Sources?

Try to pick a topic that will be easy to find research for. Topics that have plenty of sources are your best bet. If there aren’t enough sources, it’s possible that the topic will not be fully backed by scientific consensus. Having limited sources will also mean that the statements you will make in your paper will be limited. The number of sources needed to support your topic sufficiently will depend on the length of your paper. For an essay, you may simply need 3-7 sources, but for a dissertation, for example, the number of sources can reach several hundred.

When researching, it’s tempting to dive straight into the first exciting thing that you find, but you should try to start as broad as possible. Otherwise, you might miss some fascinating information and end up with a poor understanding of your topic.

This is why you should try to find a lot of information on your topic; more than you think that you’ll need. A good way to start broad is to search Google for general terms related to your topic. If you’re researching the difference between sunflowers and tulips, then you should learn a bit of information about each flower before diving deeper.

An example of a good topic to do research on is emotional intelligence. The first item in a Google search on this topic offers a list of the 26 best books. Immediately, you have a subject with in-depth research available to you. Because the field now has a neuroscience backing, each author is presumed to base their findings on accredited data, provided by actual scientists.

An example of a bad topic would be to argue in favor of the flat-Earth theory. The sources for that subject are people with no credentials to talk about the subject. All sources discussing the flat-Earth theory, from everyone except their proponents, agree that the Earth is not flat. There are mountains of evidence that make this an open and shut case: the debate is over – the Earth is round. No credible sources are available to back up the topic.

Step 3: Validation: Find the Best Sources

Wondering how to perform research? When looking for sources, you might occasionally have doubts about the credibility of what you’re reading. Some websites, authors, or public figures might claim to have a valid perspective, when in reality, they have perhaps voiced their opinions to make money, gain recognition, or push an agenda.

For an in-depth look at how to avoid referencing that do not qualify to be cited, check our article Credible Sources

Evaluate the information you find based on who has written it, whether or not it is an opinion, and whether or not other sources say the same thing. Also, make sure your source is educating you on a subject rather than trying to sell you something.

If you’re looking for someplace that exclusively has credible books and other material, search using the Aleph Integrated Library System. Their website states that their system “provides academic, research, and national libraries with the efficient, user-friendly tools and workflow support they need to meet the increasing requirements of the industry today and in the future.”

Use search engines with the right keywords. The more precise the keyword, the closer you are to the source material of the topic you’re researching. If you’re researching the impact of caffeine on employee productivity, you should search for the keywords “caffeine” and “employee productivity” because they relate directly to the topic. In this case, avoid searching for unrelated keywords such as “how to make coffee”. While it does sound relevant, making coffee has no educational input on the analysis of the effectiveness of employees under the influence of caffeine.

After you have finished your research, make sure that all of your information is accurate. You can save yourself a lot of heartbreak by double-checking all of your research before doing any writing.

Do not forget to reread the information from your sources because there’s a chance you might misinterpret what they have said. Of course, you’re not the only person that can misread a source, so it’s good to check any citations that you have found on a website.

You should also consider how you have used Google to research your topic. If you have included any bias in your search terms, then there’s a chance that the information that you have gathered will reflect that bias.

Step 4: Make Notes

When you make notes during your research, you will have readily available material to refer to when structuring your paper. Be sure to write down the author, publisher, and any other relevant information for further use.

Organizing your information can save time, and it can save you from forgetting or misremembering anything you’ve learned from your research. You should keep a link to every webpage that you visit from the start to the very end of your research. It’s best to write down a little bit of information for each link so that you can remember why you have saved them and to keep track of what kind of information you can take from them. You should also save any PDFs or images related to your research because you can use them as valuable primary sources.

Having all of the relevant facts are what you will use to build your supporting arguments. Your notes will be where you look when you need to prepare evidence and examples for your supporting arguments.

Step 5: Organize Your Information

Arrange the data from your notes into the research paper format that you will use. After analyzing everything you have researched, you should have a thesis statement –
a conclusive statement based on where all the data points to.

Next, select the data that supports this all-encompassing statement. These will be your supporting arguments. Each supporting argument must have proof – provide at least two facts in the form of examples. Analyze the evidence of each supporting argument.

Lastly, make a conclusion containing a restatement of the thesis statement, your commentary on the results, and a call-to-action (what the reader should do, given all the evidence).

The structure should look approximately like this:

  • Thesis statement
  • Supporting argument 1
    • Evidence 1 to support SA1
    • Evidence 2 to support SA2
    • Analysis of the evidence
  • Supporting argument 2
    • Evidence 1 to support SA2
    • Evidence 2 to support SA2
    • Analysis of the evidence
  • Supporting argument 3
    • Evidence 1 to support SA3
    • Evidence 2 to support SA3
    • Analysis of the evidence
  • Conclusion
    • Restatement of thesis statement
    • Commentary that looks over the results
    • A call-to-action

Lastly, you should check that all of the information you have selected is relevant. Sometimes you’ll spend a lot of time double-checking all of your research, and you’ll realize that things don’t seem to line up. In this situation, it’s tempting to stand behind some information that may not be entirely factual. After all, it’s a lot easier to go along with inaccurate information than to redo your entire research process.

Nevertheless, you should never write or publish any information unless you’re confident that it’s accurate. If you run into conflicting information while researching a topic, go back to the drawing board or try to spin the pieces of contradictory information in your favor.

For example, if you find a lot of conflicting eyewitness accounts while researching the Titanic, then you can quickly turn those conflicting accounts into an exciting piece of information. You could go back and do some in-depth research into who made those eyewitness accounts and how they shaped the public’s opinion on the Titanic sinking.

5 Essential Research Tools

How to do web research — Sometimes, the best solution for how to conduct research is to use online tools and software. We have compiled a list of the five best tools to help you with your research process:

To help you get organized when doing research, Todoist is a popular means of organizing tasks. With it, you can set productivity goals, get notifications to remind you to do your work, and access your projects from any device.

This program will help you organize your bibliography and references. If you’re not keen on installing anything, EndNote Web is an online research tool you can use.

Browser-based, RefWorks helps users find the right research data—which the program organizes and stores. It also automatically generates citations for you from that data, so you’re guaranteed a ready-made bibliography.

DataElixir offers the latest news, developments, and data in the scientific world for those of you needing to do scientific research. The website is curated once a week. To access their service, subscribe to a free weekly newsletter.

Are you ever frustrated with the paywalls that prevent you from reading the full text of a scientific paper abstract? This resource allows you access to the full text of an abstract, free of charge. Doing so helps you decide if you want to spend money on access to the entire research paper.

Conclusion

Researching is not the easiest task in the world. Perfecting it takes practice and effort, which will then serve to help you develop a sense of intuition about the credibility and relevance of your sources. You will be able to find the right information on any subject if you follow the above steps on how to do research. This skill is essential in most high-paying institutions and is crucial to helping you get that much-needed diploma.

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