Conducting Research: Table of Contents
In an age where misinformation is rampant, knowing how to correctly conduct research is a skill that will set you apart from others. This blog post goes over what research is and breaks down the process into five straightforward steps.
What Is Research?
The word research is derived from the Middle French word “recerche,” which means “to seek.” That term came from the Old French word “recerchier,” meaning “search.” But what exactly is being sought during research? Knowledge and information.
Research is the methodical process of collecting and analyzing data to expand your knowledge, so you can have enough information to answer a question or describe, explain, or predict an issue or observation.
Research is important because it helps you see the world as it really is (facts) and not as you or others think it is (opinions).
The meaning of research may sound quite heavy and significant, but that’s because it is. Proper research guides you to weed out wrong information. Today, having that skill is vital. Below, we’ll teach you how to do research in five easy-to-follow steps.
Steps to Conducting Research
It’s essential to note that there are different types of research:
- Exploratory research identifies a problem or question.
- Constructive research examines hypotheses and offers solutions.
- Empirical research tests the feasibility of a solution using data.
That being said, the research process may differ based on the purpose of the project. Take the measures below as a general guideline, and be prepared to make changes or take additional steps.
Also, keep in mind that conducting proper research is not easy. You should start with a mindset of being ready to use a lot of time and effort to obtain the information you need.
1. Prepare for Research
Preparing for research is an extensive step in itself. You must:
- Choose a topic or carefully analyze the assignment given to you.
- Craft a research question and hypothesis.
- Plan out your research.
- Create a research log.
- Transform your hypothesis into a working thesis.
2. Understand and Evaluate Sources
Once you have meticulously prepared for research, you should have a thorough understanding of the different types of sources. Doing this helps you learn which types would best fit your research project.
- Primary sources provide direct knowledge and evidence based on your research question.
- Secondary sources provide descriptions or interpretations of primary sources.
- Tertiary sources provide summaries of the primary or secondary sources without providing additional insights.
The data and information you’re seeking can be found in various mediums. The following list shows the types most commonly used in academic research and writing:
- Academic journals
- Books and textbooks
- Government and legal documents
The information you need doesn’t always have to come in the form of printed materials. It can also be found in:
- Multimedia (like radio and television podcasts, or recorded public meetings)
- Social media
Evaluate Your Sources
You must evaluate your sources to ensure that they are credible and authoritative. The information you find on websites, blogs, and social media is not as reliable as that found in academic journals, for example. Always verify the information you find, and then verify again!
To evaluate sources, you should:
- Find out as much as you can about the source
- Determine the intended audience
- Ask yourself if it is fact, opinion, or propaganda
- Analyze the evidence used
- Check how timely the source is
- Cross-check the information
3. Use the Library, Internet, and Conduct Field Research
So, where can you find all these sources? The library is a good place to start because the library staff may be able to guide you in the right direction as to where you should begin your research. If you’re a student, your school library can provide access to:
- Reference works
- Almanacs and atlases
- Catalogs and databases
- And countless books
The internet does provide easy and fast access to all sorts of data, including incorrect information. That’s why it’s important to verify everything you find there. However, the internet is also home to reliable and credible information.
You can find trustworthy sources online, including scholarly works on Google Scholar, for example. Government sites, like the Library of Congress, provide online collections of articles. There are also many websites for reputable publications, such as the New York Times. Make sure to include the latest information on the specific topic.
Lastly, you can also conduct research by collecting data yourself. You can do this in the form of interviews, observations, opinion surveys, and more.
Update your working bibliography as you conduct your research, and keep track of everything in your research log!
4. Think Critically and Takes Notes
When you’re researching, it’s important to read everything through a critical lens—don’t just accept what you see at face value. Always ask yourself questions like:
What’s the main idea?
What are the supporting ideas?
Who is the intended audience?
What’s the purpose?
Is there anything else I need to know that was left out?
Take as many notes as you can and look up anything confusing or unclear.
5. Decide on How To Integrate Sources Into Your Research Paper
Now that you have all the information you need, it’s time to figure out how you are going to integrate sources into your research paper.
Are you going to quote your sources directly? Doing so can help you establish credibility, but be sure to limit this, as your research paper should be mainly your ideas and findings (based on theoretical framework). You can also paraphrase or summarize your sources, but make sure to precede them with the author of the source.
If you’re using visuals in your research project, make sure to include them seamlessly. Ensure that there’s a purpose for the visual content (it can demonstrate something better than words alone can). Add the visual immediately after an explanation of it, and take some time to clarify why it’s relevant to the research project.
The most important part of this step is that you do not plagiarize! Always cite your sources. The only information that need not be cited is:
- Common knowledge
- Your findings from field research
Research Takes Time
The truth is that if you want to conduct proper research, you must be willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to it. And properly conducted research is essential to a well-written and credible research paper.
In other words, there are no cutting corners when it comes to research. However, as an advanced, multilingual writing assistant, LanguageTool can take care of the grammar, spelling, and punctuation aspects of your research project. It can help you in paraphrasing sentences to align with the formality required for an academic paper while also ensuring simplicity, conciseness, and fluency when necessary.
LanguageTool lets you focus on the most important aspects of writing a research paper—research and writing—while it focuses on correcting all types of errors. Its advanced technology can also help you avoid plagiarism through paraphrasing. In this case, it’s imperative that if you use this feature, you still include the source in the references or works cited page.
LanguageTool is free to use! Give it a try.
Lunsford, Andrea A. The Everyday Writer with Exercises, 2010.
Types of Sources - Purdue OWL® - Purdue University. “Types of Sources - Purdue OWL® - Purdue University,” n.d. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/conducting_research/research_overview/sources.html.
General Guidelines - Purdue OWL® - Purdue University. “General Guidelines - Purdue OWL® - Purdue University,” n.d. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/conducting_research/evaluating_sources_of_information/general_guidelines.html.
Ryan, Eoghan. “Types of Sources Explained | Examples & Tips.” Scribbr, May 19, 2022. https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/types-of-sources/.