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First-Year Seminar (FYS): Thinking About Research

The First-Year Academic Seminar is a foundational course for entering students. Topics will vary, each seminar introduces students to a variety of perspectives on a particular issue, context, or problem through university-level reading, writing, and discu

Where to Start and What to Do?

Where do you start?

Ever have a research paper due and have no idea where to start ... or even how to find help? Well have no fear! This guide will break the research process down into two easy parts: Planning and implementation.                         

Just follow this outline and you will be well on your way to becoming an expert researcher! 

Find It!

  • To look through EVERYTHING that the Connelly Library has to offer, try Summon.
  • To find books (including e-books), search our library catalog.
  • To find electronic journals, search our E-Journal Portal
  • To find journal articles, search our Databases.
  • To find online reference information, search our reference databases. Check out Credo Academic Core.

Importance of Using Reference Sources


Reference Examples


References sources, particularly specialized encyclopedias, offer many benefits. Consider the following tips as you review a reference source on your topic to reap all the benefits and make your researching even better.

  • Get definitions and background - Reference sources assume that you are new to a topic. Jargon and specialized terminology will be explained and contextualized, which you might not get in more advanced books and journal articles.
  • Get caught-up on a topic - Research is a conversation, and often it has been going on for years. Reference sources will provide a historical background and identify key developments to help you understand how we got to the current understandings and theories.
  • Identify key people and theories - Who are the most important people and ideas on your topic? Reference sources will help you identify them so you can explore their lives and research more deeply.
  • Find more sources - Reference sources will provide additional reading, usually in the form of references or background lists. These are a great next-step in your research process.

Part 1-Planning

The first part in the research process is PLANNING. This is an important step and will make your research go much more smoothly.  Here, you will: 

* Brainstorm and narrow your topic: Brainstorming is an excellent way to start the research process and to identify related ideas. Brainstorming can take the form of lists, concept mapping, outlines, or even diagrams. These, along with basic background information, will help you get an idea of related keywords and can help you define your topic. Once you start researching, you may notice that you topic is too broad or too narrow and should adjust it accordingly.

* Develop a thesis statement: Thesis statements explain your objective or perspective to the reader. They are very concise statements and the entire paper will refer back to it. It is possible that your statement may evolve as you get deeper into your research, so you need to keep your statement in mind.

* Identify your information needs: Ask yourself questions about type of information that you need. Do you need to use any particular publications? Specific journal articles? General reference sources? How much information do you need? Which journals or databases are subject related and might have the information you need? Answering these questions will give you an idea of what you can look for when it comes time to do your research.

Part 2-Implementation

The second part is the actual IMPLEMENTATION of your research planning. This includes the actual research as well as the synthesis of new information in your writing. Here, you will:

* Find & evaluate sources: Your actual research begins here and continues throughout the process. Once you have your information needs defined, you should have some idea of where to start looking for information, or even have some books, articles, or web resources in mind. Be sure to evaluate every source, especially those you find on the open web. Ask yourself objective questions about the source: Who published it? Why did they publish it? When and where was it published? How did you find it? 

* Use information ethically and appropriately: You must use your resources ethically. This means that you must cite any information you get from another source even if you put it in your own words! It is against academic policy to present the thoughts, words, or ideas of someone else as your own.  

* Synthesize and evaluate: Finally, you cannot simply restate the ideas of others, even if you cite them correctly. You must take the information that you find and combine it with what you already know to come out with an entirely new product or idea. This is the most advanced stage of the research process and will use all of your critical and creative thinking skills. It is also the most beneficial to your academic and professional career.