Planning your research

The research process is a method for exploring and examining resources related to a particular topic. It encompasses a range of activities that can be divided into distinct but iterative steps.

Step 1: Getting started

  • Think about what sort of and how much information is needed.
  • Review the requirements of the assignment.
  • Gather background information on the topic.

Step 2: Developing a search strategy

  • State the topic in the form of a research question.
  • Break the research question down into concepts and determine appropriate search terms. Think about related terms and synonyms for your concepts.
  • Construct search statements.
  • Prepare an action plan for seeking out the information you need. Consider where would be the best places to search given what you need, what is your timeline, and how will you keep track of your searches and the sources you want to review or use?

Step 3: Searching

  • Use tools such as library catalogues, journal databases and the Internet.
  • Scan your results, read abstracts as you go, and save items you want to review later or use.
  • Modify your search strategy as needed. Change your search terms, add more specific or less specific ones, and consider trying other search tools.
  • Manage the information sources you located during this phase.

Step 4: Evaluating, writing, citing

  • Think critically about your results. Evaluate the quality of your sources and determine if they are relevant for your topic.
  • Repeat previous steps as needed to gather more information and fill in gaps.

For assistance throughout this process, email, phone, or chat with one of our librarians.

For more information, please see these guides:

Updated August 23, 2021 by Digital & Web Operations (