The Research Process

Research is Not a Linear Process!

We tend to think of researching a project or paper as a linear process – you look up information, then write your paper. Done!

The reality is that research is rarely that straight forward, and good research is a process. You may need to back track and retrace your research steps as you narrow or broaden your topic, or as you spot gaps in your research.

This guide will outline the steps in that research process and offer guidance on how to approach those steps. 

What are the Steps in the Research Process? 

  1. Identify Your Topic
  2. Find Background Information
  3. Narrow (or Expand) Your Topic
  4. Use the Catalog to Find Books 
  5. Use Article Databases to Find Articles
  6. Consider Other Reliable Resources
  7. Evaluate Your Resources 
  8. Write Your Paper or Complete Your Project

You may have to repeat steps or backtrack, depending on how your topic develops as you research. This is normal!

General Research Tips

  • Work from the general to the specific! 
  • Keep track of what you found and where you found it! Zotero can be useful for this. 
  • Remember, you may need to back track and reconsider steps in the process – that is normal! 
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to begin your research. As you will see in this guide, sometimes you may want to back track and reconsider aspects of your research or your project. This can take time, so you do not want to rush the project or your research. 
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help! Contact us at for assistance. 

Information Fallout Game

The Information Fallout Game, created by Minitex of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and University of Minnesota Libraries, challenges you to put your information skills to the test to vanquish the Director of Misinformation and her henchman and save the world. Try it here.