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Research Toolkit: 3: Develop Your Research Strategy

Step 3: Develop a Research Strategy

Once you understand your assignment and narrowed down your topic, the next step is to come up with a plan of attack for what, where, and when you're going to research. Your strategy may change as you learn more about your topic and start to really pull together your ideas, but having a plan to start with can make the process much less stressful.

First, Determine Your Needs:

Review your topic and the assignment. Then, ask these questions:

  • What do I know about my topic?
  • What don't I know?
  • What do I think I need to know?
  • Do I need to conduct primary research for my assignment (such as an interview, survey, questionnaire, etc.)?
  • What type of secondary research do I need:
    • Research related to facts?
    • Research related to theories?
    • Research related to applications?
    • Books, scholarly journals, newspaper articles, statistics, and/or information from the internet?
    • How current does my research need to be?
  • The clearer you are about the type of research you need at the start of the research process, the easier it will be to locate specific information.
Remember, Doing Research is a Recursive Process:

Doing research -- and writing about it -- isn't a linear, forward-moving, step-by-step process. It generally isn't orderly. In fact, it's often messy and repetitive. You may find a great source, then find you have to go back to the planning process and reorganize your outline so the ideas you've gathered from that great new source will fit into your paper. Or, you may start down one path, only to find there's not any valid research on that particular point, so you may have to start over, as frustrating as it may be.

Below is an image that tries to convey how the pieces of the research process puzzle fit together. Note how evaluation is always at the center of the process.


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