The Six-Phase Approach to Research

Remember that these phases are not necessarily going to occur in order. You may find yourself doing more than one of them at once, or going back to one you’ve already done. This is normal.

Phase 1: Get ready

First, read your assignment carefully, and contact your mentor about anything that’s unclear.

Go to the Writing Resource Center for resources to help you understand writing assignments, such as essays and research papers. You will find advice on how to write different types of essays, as well as examples of well-written essays. There is also grammar, spelling and style help.

Review Decide on a Topic.

Phase 2: Get background information

Next you will want to get a general idea of what is known about your topic, and see if you can focus in on a particular sub-topic that’s of interest to you. Review Get Background Information Using Reference Tools.

Phase 3: Find books

The next step is to see if there are some good books or e-books on your topic. Books generally cover the big themes of a topic better than articles do, but they are generally not as specific and detailed as articles.

To find articles, go to Subject Guides and select the guide that’s appropriate for your research topic. You will find an E-book Catalog search box and links to relevant e-book collections under the Books tab.

Because the Online Library’s collection is limited to e-books, you may need to go to another library to find print books on your topic. Review Find Information Sources Outside the Library for information on how to do that.

Phase 4: Find articles

While books are good for covering big themes, articles are better for providing information about specific discoveries, developments, theories, and research studies/experiments. They are also published on a faster timeline than books, so if what you’re researching is an area where research is ongoing, articles are the best way to stay up to date.

To find articles, go to Subject Guides and select the guide that’s appropriate for your research topic. You will find appropriate databases under the Journal Articles tab.

Review Identify Keywords, Combine Keywords into a Search, Fine-tune Search Results, and Locate Full-text.

Phase 5: Find Web Resources

The Internet has a lot of good information, especially:

  • government data and reports
  • data and reports from non-governmental organizations
  • data and reports from corporations
  • data and reports from not-for-profit organizations, universities, museums, archives, research institutes, etc.
  • online-only journals, books, podcasts, videos, etc.

There are two major disadvantages or challenges of using the Internet for research:

  • Most information on the web is not peer reviewed or quality controlled.
  • There is noone place where all information on the Web is gathered together and organized.

Go to Subject Guides and select the guide that’s appropriate for your research topic, then click the Web Sites tab. You will find a Google search box, as well as web sites that have been selected by Empire State College librarians and faculty.

Review this tutorial on how to search Google effectively – Google: More Search Help.

Phase 6: Evaluate and cite your sources

Whether your sources are scholarly or popular, print or online, from a library database or from the web, you need to evaluate them yourself. As a researcher, you are the final authority on whether an information source is accurate and reliable enough to be included in your paper.

To make that decision, review Timeliness, Reliability, Authority and Purpose and Perspective.

Every information source that you use in your paper, whether you quote from it, paraphrase, use a fact or idea or are strongly influenced by it, needs to be cited. That means you need to create a bibliography or works cited at the end of your paper that lists all the information sources you used, AND you need to put an in-text citation in wherever your quoted, paraphrased or used a fact or idea.

Go to Citing Basics for information on how to cite in APA, MLA or Chicago/Turabian.

The library CAN help you with:

  • supporting and assisting you in developing your research topic
  • identifying the best places to search
  • teaching you search techniques and helping you with keyword combinations
  • supporting and assisting you in evaluating information sources
  • teaching you how to use our databases
  • teaching you how to cite your sources

The library CANNOT help you with:

  • telling you a good research topic, or telling you which research topic is better
  • finding or choosing information sources for you
  • proofreading, editing or giving an opinion on your paper (go to a Writing Tutor or SmarThinking, the college’s online tutoring service)
  • checking your citations or formatting a citation for you
  • interpreting what your mentor or instructor wants
  • troubleshooting your college logon or problems with MoodleRooms

If you have a disability and would like an accommodation

First register with Disability Services. Then you have two options:

  • If you know the kind of accommodation you need, just contact the library via Ask A Librarian and let us know.
  • Or, contact Disability Services (1 800 847-3000 extension 2201), and we will work together to determine what kind of accommodation is ideal for your situation.

We want to work with you to make the library tools and services work for you.

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a brief course in information literacy