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The Research Process

This guide walks through some research strategies and points to resources, tools, and people that can help.

In This Section

magnifying glass iconIn this section, you'll find:

Reading Scholarly Books & Articles

Reading academic or scholarly literature can be a daunting task.

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to read thoroughly and take notes. Be patient with yourself - it takes practice! Here are some good steps to follow when reading a research article or book chapter:

 

article under a magnifying glass1. Read the abstract.

 This will allow you to get a framework of the article before you dive into it. Understanding the purpose of the article will help guide you as you read it. 

2. Skim the entire article.

Read the article all the way through without taking notes to get the gist of the article and get familiar with the topic. 

3. Take notes.

Read the article again - this time in a more focused way - and take notes. Highlight key points and jot down any questions.

4. Identify & summarize key info.

What are the key findings? How did they prove this? Does the proof add up to the conclusions? Were there limitations? Are there lingering questions? What are the implications for further research?

5. Check the sources.

Who does the author cite? Are they relevant to your topic? You can look up an article's citations and utilize that research as well.

Authority is Constructed & Contextual

Let's revisit those basic questions that got us started thinking about keywords. 

This time, we'll use them to think about the credibility and authority of a source.

 

WHO
  • Who wrote it? What could their biases and affiliations be?
  • What qualifications does the author have to write on this topic?
WHAT
  • What kind of source is it? A book? A newspaper article?
  • What claims does the source make? What is its argument or thesis?
WHERE
  • Where was it published? In an encyclopedia? A journal? Online?
  • Where is the author based?
WHEN
  • When was it written, and what time frame does it cover?
  • Does it matter if the two are different?
HOW
  • How does the author present their argument? Does their methodology seem sound?
WHY
  • Why did the author write it?
  • Why might it be useful to my own argument or research questions?

 

This video (3 minutes) describes what we mean when we call a source "credible," and suggests three areas to look at when you're deciding whether a source is credible or not.

Video posted on YouTube by North Carolina State University Libraries under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 license.

 

Don't forget to consider the context and nature of your own research project.

How does your specific context affect these questions? Are some of these questions more important to you than others? Do some of the answers matter less than the others?

Understanding Peer Review

What is peer review?

Your professor may also require that you use "peer reviewed" articles. So, what is peer review? Peer review is one way to assess the credibility of a source. Peer-reviewed articles have been looked over by other scholars who study the same subject or research in the same field. Articles are reviewed to make sure

  • a researcher's methods are sound,
  • their results make sense, and
  • their conclusions contribute to the scholarly conversation.

 

This video (3 minutes) explains the basics and gives a quick outline of the scholarly publishing process.

Video posted on YouTube by North Carolina State University Libraries under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license.

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