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The Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture & Construction Science: Basic Research Strategies

How to Develop a Good Research Topic

Developing a Research Question

Basic Search Strategies Check List

Basic Research Strategy

This guide is designed to assist you with how to develop a research strategy

Basic library research strategy involves: 

1. Select a topic.  Make sure that you understand assignment expectations regarding scope, purpose, and limits within which you must confine your topic.

When choosing a topic, make sure you select one:

a)  That interests you.

b)  You can cover adequately within the time and limits assigned.

c)  Can find enough information.

2. Find background information on your topic.

a)  General dictionaries, encyclopedias, manuals, handbooks, etc.  Look for a comprehensive definition of your topic.

b)  Subject/specialized reference tools are additional sources to use if your subject must consist of a specific area, such as English, Social Sciences, or Health Sciences.

c)  Think of ways to limit your topic and formulate a preliminary thesis or topic statement, which is one to two sentence summary of the main point of your paper.

d)  Think of questions that can be asked about your topic, and consider possible controversies, influences, trends, problems, or effects. 

e)  Be as specific as possible.

3. List keywords/terms.

a)  Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included.

4.  Locate information on your topic.

a)  Search the library’s online catalog to identify books that are related to your topic.

b)  Find articles on your topic.  You may access articles through electronic databases, or in the library’s periodical collection.  Articles in periodicals (magazines and journals) contain current information not found in books. 

c)  Government publications include helpful material on a variety of subjects.

d)  Newspaper articles are a good source for recent developments in topics of current interest or for contemporary accounts of past events.

5.  Locate additional information as needed.

a)  Biographies

b)  Book Reviews

c)  Literary Criticisms

d)  Statistics 

This search has taken you from general to more specific information on your topic.  Throughout the entire process there are two things to always keep in mind:

1.  Take careful notes on your search so that you can review and evaluate your progress.

          2.  Copy complete bibliographic information for all material consulted so you can
          quickly complete the bibliography.

Consult the reference librarian if you need additional suggestions for gathering information.