By the end of this module, you should be able to:
A research strategy can be adapted to almost every subject. Using a research strategy will make the library research process more successful. The research strategy outlined in this module is one approach to shaping your research process and efficiently meeting the needs of your project.
Focusing your Topic
The first step in any research process is selecting your topic. First ideas for a research topic are typically broad and sometimes vague. Gathering background information on your topic, such as an overview from an encyclopedia, will help frame the context of your topic. The next section, Finding Background Information, provides more information on this step.
Once you've gathered some background information, you can formulate a specific research question from your topic. For example:
As you begin to gather information for your research project, you may discover that you need to adjust your topic. If there is too much information, you will need to narrow your focus. If there is not enough information, you might need to broaden your research question.
Finding Background Information
Encyclopedias are an excellent source of background information, providing a concise overview of a topic. This overview also provides ideas for focusing a topic by outlining all aspects of it, and alerts you to terminology related to the topic.
General encyclopedias, like the Encyclopaedia Britannica or the World Book Encyclopedia, provide a general overview. Subject encyclopedias provide more detailed coverage of a topic and usually include a bibliography at the end of each entry, for further research. A few examples of subject encyclopedias are:
You can search Lumen, the Regis Library Catalog, to locate subject encyclopedias.
Determining Your Information Need
As you focus your topic, you should start to determine what type of information would best suit the needs of your research project.
Setting Realistic Limits
As you gather information for your research project, set realistic limits for yourself on the amount of information needed for your project. For example, a five-page paper will require much less information to complete than an honors thesis. If you have questions, consult with your professor or contact a reference librarian.