Research can be a fun and informative process, but so many writers struggle to know where to begin. In this post, we’ll discuss six tips for starting the research process.

1. Understand how the research process works

If you’ve never undertaken a research project before, or if you find it difficult to get started, take some time to learn how the research process actually works. Your grasp of how research gets done will inform your ability to not only start the process, but to persevere until the end.

All research begins with a question or set of questions. These questions eventually transform into thesis statements and main ideas. However, even before you can come up with the questions that you want your research to answer, you need to familiarize yourself with what other researchers have written about your topic. This is called preliminary research.

Preliminary research helps you situate your own ideas within the ongoing scholarly conversation. It also allows you to establish whether your idea is worth exploring.

2. Make a plan and know when to stop

The most successful research process will be both well-planned and flexible. On the one hand, you should plan to complete your research in a way that enables you to meet the deadline.

On the other hand, you should allow for the possibility that your topic or main idea might be too broad or narrow (see step three below). Even the most well-planned research projects sometimes veer in unexpected directions.

Additionally, you’ll want to be aware of when it’s appropriate to stop your research. While you could feasibly go on researching a topic forever, use the assignment guidelines (and your own instincts) to help you determine when you need to move on to the next component of the project.

3. Choose a manageable topic

Many research projects start with a broad topic, but it’s essential to know when a topic is too broad to manage. The complexity of your topic should depend on the required length or size of the assignment.

Preliminary research can help you determine if your topic is too broad because it forces you to engage with the scholarly conversation. This allows you to find the gaps in the current research, which are likely narrower than general topic ideas.

4. Meet with a librarian

A librarian can help you formulate a topic, narrow or broaden your ideas, and find relevant sources for your research. Consider scheduling a research consultation with a librarian at the start of your research process. Librarians can also provide guidance on citing your sources.

5. Create an outline

You can use an outline to map out the areas that you want to explore in your research process. An outline will equip you with a set of clear directions for undertaking systematic research on your topic

6. Keep track of your sources

You’ll want to keep track of the sources that you’re consulting throughout the research process. This will be especially important when you create the bibliography or reference list for your research project. It’s a good idea to cite your sources as you work, rather than wait until the last minute.

BibGuru’s citation generator can help you keep track of your references, create in-text citations, and assemble your bibliography. Use BibGuru’s projects feature to organize your research by assignment or source type, or create a folder for each of the main points of your outline.

Frequently Asked Questions about how to start the research process

🚕 What is the first step in starting research?

The first step in the research process is identifying the question or set of questions that you wish to answer with your research.

🚙 What is the most important step in the research process?

The most important step in the research process is coming up with your primary research question.

🏎 How do you research effectively?

An effective research process is well-planned, yet flexible, and incorporates ample time for finding, reading, and citing sources.

🚜 How do you develop a research plan?

Start by creating an outline that maps out the directions you want to take with your research. Then, schedule time for tasks like meeting with a librarian, finding and reading your sources, and citation.

🚛 Why is research a process?

Research is a process because it includes multiple steps that allow you to gradually refine your ideas about a given topic.


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