“Why do we yawn?” “Why are cats afraid of cucumbers?” “Why do we dream?” “Why am I always tired?” Humans are curious beings, always on the hunt for answers. A quick search on Google might help you find the answers to most of the questions that cross your mind, but what about the ones that haven’t been answered yet? Research helps with just that! With the help of books, academic papers, the all-knowing Internet, and anything else that can be just as helpful, you can answer these questions in an essay, research paper, presentation or video. Lost on where to begin? This guide on how to do research will do through all the steps of research in detail to help you research more efficiently.
Steps of Research
Step One: Pick a research topic
The first step of research is picking a topic for your research paper or presentation. Not having a topic before you begin your research might lead to you straying from the topic and is likely to take up a lot of time. It’s better to take a few minutes to pick a topic than spending hours reading up on material you won’t be using. To choose a research topic, you can start by brainstorming and creating a mind map. To create a mind map, simply take a piece of paper and write down a vague topic in the center. This could be the topic you’ve been assigned or anything that piques your interest. Then, surround the central topic with more specific ideas/topics that are related to it. This will leave you with some topic ideas that you might like to learn more about. With some general research, you can then narrow down these ideas to a unique one for your research paper or presentation. The trick is to not get attached to any of the topics and avoid them if you can’t find anything on them after 15 minutes of research.
P.S If you can’t pick between two topics, ask your professor for help. You’ll be able to find out which one’s more common.
Step Two: Map out your research
Once you’ve picked your research topic, the next step of research is writing down what you don't know and mapping out what you aim to find through your research. Make a list of all the questions that you’re trying to answer through your research. Then, find something that’s debatable within that topic. That’s what you’ll want to spend most of your time researching. The more specific your topic is, the better.
Step Three: Find good sources
The Internet gave us the superpower to get any information at the snap of our fingers. But this boon of the abundance of information can quickly turn into a curse. This is why an important step of research is to pick out a few key sources to rely on as skipping this step might result in you losing precious hours in a spiral of material that you won’t end up using. When picking your key sources of research, go for those which present you with a variety of perspectives, keep you focused, and point to further resources. Wikipedia is a great place to start as it provides you with a list of sources of research that you can explore, but it shouldn’t be used as a source itself. Wikipedia is a great way of doing research when narrowing down your topic ideas, as it gives you a quick summary of the topics. When choosing your sources, look for substantial articles that provide you with statistics, data, and also opinions. It’s easy to favour sources of research that validate your own opinion on the topic, but it’s better to keep an open mind as this will allow you to compile the strongest research possible and not just what aligns with your argument.
Step Four: Compile your research
Once you’ve collected all the data you need, it’s time to compile your research and start working on your presentation or research paper. It’s easy to procrastinate writing once you’re deep into research, so make sure you don’t spend more time than necessary looking for data. It can be hard to decide when to stop researching, so a general rule to follow is to only spend around 30 minutes for each page. So, if you’re supposed to write a 10-page paper, don’t spend more than 5 hours researching it. You might face writer’s block but we’ve got some tips that will help pull you out of this hole. In the case of a research paper, this step of research entails forming a thesis statement, creating an outline, writing, editing and proofreading your paper. While compiling your research, you might find that some of if isn’t relevant or that you require more research to support your argument. In this case, you can conduct some additional research as necessary. To avoid getting pulled back into the rabbit hole, you can list down the points that require further research and use those as a guide.
Step Five: Make the final edits
Congratulations! You’ve finished compiling your research and now have something to show for the effort you’ve put in. It’s time for the final step of research - adding the final touches. To avoid plagiarism, you need to cite your sources of research wherever you reference other papers or articles. The guidelines for these will differ based on the research format that you’re using. Keeping track of your research sources can be tiresome, so skip the hassle and let tools like Zotero and Mendeley do it for you. Once you’ve done this, proofread your compiled data and get rid of any typos, grammatical errors, or inconsistencies.
We hope this step-by-step guide on how to do research has helped you gain more confidence when conducting research. By following these 5 easy steps of research, you will be able to perform research more efficiently and end up with material good enough to earn you a good grade. If you’d like to learn more about how to write a research paper, prepare a literature review, or put together a presentation, we’ve got you covered with detailed guides.