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Research step-by-step: What is research?

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Two kinds of research

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There are two kinds of research: 1) original research and 2) review of the books, articles and other information on your topic.  This, #2, is often called library research.  All of you will do both kinds of research before you graduate and some of you will continue throughout your careers.  All good research takes time. Schedule enough time and start early in the semester.


Original research is a project that includes the collection and analysis of data.  The collection of data could be in a science lab, such as biology, chemistry, anthropology, or in the field.  Field research might involve gathering data via a survey, interview, or geological dig.  You can see that these examples of different kinds of original research may overlap. 


When original research is written up into an article for an academic journal, it usually includes

  1. an introduction describing the question or problem being studied and a discussion of previous research on this topic (this discussion is based on library research) 
  2. how the research was done: methodology
  3. the results of the research which often includes tables or graphs
  4. a discussion of the results in view of the original question and ideas for future research
  5. a list of the articles, books and anything else used for the paper: a bibliography or references cited

Once it is written, the author(s) sends it to a journal for publication.  The editors of the journal send the article out to other experts in the field, the authors’ peers, for their constructive criticism.  This is called peer reviewed for a scholarly or academic journal.  Most often, the article is sent back to the authors for at least one re-write before the journal publishes it.  Have you ever had to re-write a paper?  So have your professors.




Library Research is the gathering of information on your topic that others have written or recorded somehow. This might be in books, articles or other materials. College students most often write their papers using library research.  Students need to move away from the idea of taking the first few books or articles they find on their topics and writing about them.  Instead, college students develop research questions or a thesis statement and then find answers or supporting evidence through library research and, sometimes, original research. 


There are exceptions to everything in this guide. 

Please ask your professor or librarian

if you would like details or clarification.

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Carol Withers
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