The Research Process

Print this handout and then reference it while you view the:

First things first

  • Decide on your topic.
  • Make your decision based on topics covered in the previous course readings, or choose a few of your own topic (subject to approval by your teacher).
  • One strategy is to assemble your course materials and decide on the best topic at the library, while engaged in the research process.

  • Strategies

  • Plan your library trip.
  • Bring all the course readings, and have three possible topics of your own choosing in mind.
  • You donít want to pursue a topic over which little scholarship has been written, nor do you want a topic if OSU holdings are sparse.
  • Begin with a broad sweep.

  • The Broad Sweep

  • Choose 3 possible topics.
  • If a course reading has something to do with bison, then brainstorm keywords about the topic and the argument
  • For example: bison; conservation; buffalo, etc.
  • Do a search using different keywords and determine how many articles & books are available on the topic.
  • Repeat this process for all 3 possible topics and make an informed decision on what you will ultimately choose.
  • Once you have made your decision, stick with it.
  • Research is a time-consuming process, and although switching topics is sometimes necessary, it also wastes valuable time.
  • Once youíve decided, then itís time to pull articles and mine bibliographies.

  • Mining Bibliographies

  • The bibliography pages of a book or article are a gold mine of resources.
  • If an article you have pulled speaks to your topic, then chances are that the author cites articles that speak to your topic as well.
  • Read the titles of articles on the bibliography page and decide which ones seem relevant to your topic.
  • Search for them and see if they are available.
  • Those articles too have bibliographies. And so onÖAnd so onÖ
  • Also, pay attention to the names of the authors. Are you seeing the same names on the bibliography pages of different articles?
  • If so, you have just discovered who the heavy hitters are.

  • The Heavy Hitters

  • The heavy hitters are the scholars who are widely recognized as experts on your topic.
  • What does it say about the level of scholarship and research that you generate if you do not include the most prestigious experts in your field of study?
  • It says that your research is weak.
  • Once you know the heavy hitters, then do a search for articles by that author.
  • Print out that list and search OSU availability for those articles.
  • Donít be too heavy-handed about including heavy hitters. One or two articles is enough.
  • You want to make sure your research demonstrates diversity too.



  • Diversity of Research

  • Make sure you present opposing arguments.
  • Not all scholars agree, or there would be no debate.
  • Try and include one or two scholars who disagree with you, then refute their argument with your own argument and with the arguments of scholars in your camp.

  • Bringing it all together

  • Remember that if you need, for example, 10 sources, then you should start with about 20.
  • Doing so allows you to choose the best articles in terms of the scholarship, and in terms of how well they relate to your own argument.
  • And use current research.

    Current Research

  • The best research demonstrates an awareness of the current conversation among scholars.
  • While a 10 year old article may be very informative, it is also true that since that time the debate has taken new directions.
  • The best procedure is to stay with articles no more than three to five years old.

    The Recap

  • Plan your library trip.
  • Use a broad sweep.
  • Mine bibliographies.
  • Discover the heavy hitters.
  • Diversity of articles.
  • Use current research.
  • Work smart by starting early.