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The Research Process
Getting Started
Every college student will do some sort of research project during their college career. While research may be time consuming, it is a process that gets easier with practice. This guide is designed to help you navigate the research project from start to finish.

Please Note: All of these steps may not fit your particular assignment. use them as a guide. Remember, you may revisit some of these steps several times as you refine and update your topic. You may also complete these steps in a slightly different order.
Step 1. Define a Research Question
To define a research question, follow these steps:
  1. What is your idea for a topic?
  2. Find background information to help develop and narrow topic. Is it a "researchable" idea?
  3. Narrow/define your topic, using concepts like TIME, LOCATION, SUBJECT AREA, PROBLEM/QUESTION, etc.

Before defining your research topic, it is always best to review your assignment in order to make sure your idea fits within the guidelines set by your instuctor.


It is helpful to do some preliminary research in order determine if the topic is "researchable." Try using Credo Reference or Gale Virtual Reference Library  when searching for background information.
Step 2. Define Your Information Needs
Before starting your research, consider the following questions:
  1. How long does the paper need to be?
  2. Who is your audience?
  3. Do you need to use certain types of resources (such as primary sources, historical materials, scholarly or popular resources, etc.)?
  4. Are books useful resources for your topic?
  5. Are journal articles useful for your topic? Do you need to use scholarly material?
  6. Is web material appropriate for your research?
The answers to questions will help you detemine where to look for resources for your project. The Sage Libraries has a wealth of materials and the search process will be easier if you know your information needs.
Step 3. Develop a Research Strategy & Search
Before searching in the Libraries' databases and catalogs, take a few moments to develop a search strategy. This will help make your search more effective. Follow the following steps:
  1. Brainstorm search terms. Break down your topic into smaller concepts and identify synonyms for these concepts
  2. Using your key terms and concepts, create efficient search strings
  3. Where will you find the materials you need (as defined in step 2)? Are there any subject-specific library databases you should consider? Remember that a quality research paper uses a variety of resources.
  4. Search library databases, catalogs and web sites for sources for your paper

RESEARCH TIP:  Create efficient search strings using Boolean Commands

Boolean commands allow you to link keywords together in various combination to research complex topics that are easily understood by a computer.  'AND,' 'OR,' and 'NOT' are the most commonly used commands. Refer to our Database and Catalog Searching tutorial or to our Boolean Commands tutorial for more information on creating efficient search strings.
Step 4. Find Information
Search the Libraries' databases and catalogs to find quality resources. Remember, a quality research project uses a variety of sources.


Sage Libraries Catalog
Use the Sage Libraries Catalog when searching for books, ebooks, DVDS, and other materials owned by the Sage Colleges. Search results may be limited by format, availabity, publication date and collection.
WorldCat is a catalog of books and other materials in libraries worldwide. It is best to use when you are unable to find materials in the Sage Libraries Catalog.
EBSCOhost ebooks
This eBook collection contains over 10,000 titles covering a wide range of disciplines. Titles from this collection may also be found by searching the Sage Libraries Catalog.
Ebook Central
Ebook Central is a collection of over 70,000 eBooks covering a broad range of subjects. Titles from this collection may also be found by searching the Sage Libraries Catalog.
The Sage Libraries databases include scholarly or popular articles and other materials on a wide range of topics. Some databases include full-text articles while other databases only provide article citations.
The Journals portal has information about all the journals and newspapers in the library's print and online collection. It is best to use when you are looking for a specific article or journal.

Visit our list of Subject Guides  for subject-specific research assistance.


RESEARCH TIP: Unsure where to look? Ask a Librarian ‚Äč!

Step 5. Write Your Paper
Take notes from your resources, being careful to note citation information and paraphrase appropriately. Next, create and follow an outline. Once your paper is written, make sure to cite your sources appropriately!
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Interlibrary Loan
Not finding what you need? Request items not owned by Sage using Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Be sure to request items at least two weeks before a project is due.
Evaluate Your Sources
There is an abundant amount of information available for research but some sources are not accurate, creditable or useful. Therefore, you should always carefully evaluate a source - no matter how reliable it seems to be - before using it for your research. Use a TRAP to evaluate materials for quality. Also, verify any statistics or quotations.

Click on thumbnail for larger image

Check out this three minute video on the differnence between scholarly and popular articles by Vanderbilt University in Tennessee 

What is the difference between articles in Newsweek and The Journal of Studies on Alcohol? Why use scholarlyjournals  for your research papers? This chart helps you observe the differences.
Periodical type: Scholarly journals News
& newspapers
Who is intendedaudience? Scholars, researchers,
General audience General audience Professionals or specialists; usestechnical jargon Educated general audience
Are sourcescited? Yes Rarely No No No
Who wrote thearticles?  Scholars and researchers Staff writers, freelancewriters or scholars Staff writers,freelance writers Editorial staff, freelance writers Editorial staff,freelance writers
Type of advertising: None Variety of products(clothes, cars, food, etc.) Variety of products Industry-specificproducts, usually Variety of products
Level of analysis: High Medium; not scholarly Low; superficial; can be sensational Medium Medium; opinions, commentary, etc.
Who is thepublisher? Professionalorganization For-profit businesses Businesses Trade or professionalassociation orbusinesses Businesses, usually
Publishes originalresearch? Yes
Sometimes (usually secondary or tertiary source) No (tertiary source) Not usually (secondary or tertiary source) No (Tertiary source)
Other traits: Reports original research Good introduction to a current topic or current events Entertainment-
Covers news & trends in a specific industry Could be helpful in pro/con arguments
Examples: Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Studies  onAlcohol. Time, Newsweek,Maclean'sU.S. News & World Report, New York Times Glamour,
Beverage World, Progressive  Grocer, Modern Tire Dealer, American Libraries. Nation, Commentary, New Republic, National Review.
Scholarly journals may also be called peer reviewed or refereed journals. This indicates that a panel of experts reviewed the article manuscripts thoroughly before they were published. If other researchers based their work on faulty original research, bad research would spread quickly!
Some publications could fit in more than one category. For instance: Scientific American is a scholarly journal with scientific but readable articles. It has a suggested reading list, but does not actually cite its sources. When in doubt, ask your instructor if certain articles are suitable for your research paper.
For help with citing articles, visit the college’s Center for Reading and Writing on the main floor of the library for personalized assistance in organizing and writing your paper and bibliography.  SUNY Adirondack Library

Research Apps & Tools
There are numerous apps and tools that are designed to assist students with research. The following is a short list of helpful tools.

Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily.

Evernote is an app that makes it easy to remember things big and small from your everyday life using your computer, phone, tablet and the web.

OmmWriter is an app for Mac, PC and iPad that allows you to create a distraction-free writing envionment no matter where you go.

Pomodora Technique Timer is a time management method which uses a timer to break down work into periods of 25 minutes. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.

Trello is an easy way to organize anything from your day-to-day work, to a favorite side project, to your life plans. It is also a great tool for organizing collaborative projects.

Citation Management Tools

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help organize your research, collaborate with others online and discover the latest research.

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool to help collect, organize, cite and share research sources.
Citing Sources

Online Citation Guides

Purdue Online Writing Lab
W.W. Norton's "Write Site"

Print copies of the major style manuals can be found at the Information Desk in either Library. We also have electronic copies for select style manuals.

AMA Manual of Style
Chicago Manual of Style