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Explaining the Research Process

Research is Iterative

Students often see research as a linear process that they can proceed through to create a successful paper or project, but as you know, research is more circular than that.  

research process


We often explain to our students that the three beginning steps of the research process are:

  • brainstorming keywords to use in a search for information (this keyword tool might help)
  • reading contextual (or background information) to gain more knowledge and find more keywords (you can encourage students to use encyclopedias, wikipedia, etc. to broaden their understanding of a topic)
  • evaluating the information we've found and gaining contextual information and finding more keywords (the video below can help with this part of the process)

Even after students have done a bit of background searching, landed on a topic, and brainstormed keywords, explain that:

  • it is normal to search more than one database and try many keywords before you locate useful sources 
  • They may realize they are missing a crucial pieces of information (and have to search again) 
  • They may realize that they want to focus on a different aspect of a topic

That's okay!  Research is an iterative process and it will look different for every person and project.  Circling back and trying something new is a good way to get better results - use examples of this from your own research in your explanation.

Picking Your Topic is Research

Video via NCSU LibrariesEdited to add UT Libraries information. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license. 

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