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Library Research Strategy: 8 Steps in the Research Process

Throughout your research, please feel free to ask for assistance from a librarian; we are here to help you.

Step 1.

Select a topic

  • When choosing a topic here are some things you might wish to consider:
    • When is the assignment or paper due?
    • What are the parameters of the assignment or paper?
      • Are there requirements on the number of pages?
      • How many and what type of resources are required?
    • What do you already know about the topic?
      • What issues have you been reading and talking about in class? Do any of these things interest you enough to warrant further investigation?
      • What issues haven't been covered in the course, but seem related and are of interest to you?
    • Are the number and types of required resources available or accessible at Bowdoin within your timeframe?

Step 2.

Locate background information and refine topic

  • Locate and begin to review sources (such as subject encyclopedias, yearbooks, handbooks, or reliable web resources) that provide background information, facts and bibliographies.
  • Identify the key concepts, themes, questions, or issues associated with this topic.
    • Brainstorm and collect alternate, related, broader or narrower terms to be used in your searches.
  • Try searching the library catalog and one or two indexes. Is the number of relevant articles and/or books sufficient to continue with your topic? If not, refine your topic; consider narrowing or broadening the scope of it.
  • Begin to formulate a preliminary research question or topic.

Step 3.

Search for books, articles, and other material

  • How-to-search guides.
  • Refine your research question or topic as necessary based on the information you find.
  • Materials not immediately available at Bowdoin may be available through one of our lending partners.

Step 4.

Evaluate

Step 5.

Synthesize the ideas and concepts from the sources you have collected

  • Visit the Writing Project web page and/or meet with a Writing Assistant to assist you with focusing, developing, clarifying, organizing, and refining your writing.

Step 7.

Repeat steps as necessary

  • You may find leads to new facets to your topic or new questions to be answered.

Step 8.

Format the paper and citations based on style recommended by your professor, discipline, or department.