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Learn How to Research

The Steps of Research

  • Select a topic that interests you.

  • Explore your topic: get definitions, summaries, and history by using websites, magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedias (you can use non-scholarly sources for this part, but sure to find quality sources for your references). 
  • Brainstorm the issues surrounding your topic using a concept map and the 5 W’s:
    • Why is this an important/interesting issue?
    • Who is affected by this topic? o What aspects of this topic are of interest to you?
    • Where is this issue happening, or on which geographic region are you focusing?
    • When did this issue happen, or on what time period is your research focused? 
  • Create research questions based on your topic using open-ended questions (how, why, should, to what extent, at what point, etc.).
  • Identify the most important concepts in your research question. These will become your searching keywords.
  • List any similar words or synonyms for your keywords (e.g.: university OR post-secondary OR college).
  • Use the keywords and synonyms to search for books (in the Library Catalogue) and scholarly articles (in databases such as EBSCO).
  • Use Boolean Operators to narrow (AND) or broaden (OR) your search results as necessary.
  • Evaluate the information you have found using the STAR criteria.
    • Source: who is the author, and what makes them an expert?
    • Timeliness: when was it published?
    • Accuracy: is it free of errors and bias?
    • Relevance: does the information relate to your research question?
  • Cite your sources with in-text citations and a reference


NorQuest College Librarians. (2017). Research essay checklist [handout]. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from 

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