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Seven Steps to Effective Research 

Adapted with permission from The Seven Steps of the Research Process, Reference Department, Collections, Reference, Instruction & Outreach (CRIO), Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY)

Step 1: Identify and develop your topic.

State your topic as a question (for example, "What effect does use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?"). Then identify the main concepts or keywords in your question (in the above example, alcoholic beverages, health, college students). Test the main concepts and keywords by using them as search terms in catalogs and databases. The number of results you get will help you determine if you need to broaden or narrow your topic.

Step 2: Find background information.

Look up your keywords in the indexes of subject encyclopedias, as well as in your course textbooks and reserve readings. Read articles on these topics to set the context for your research. Note any useful sources listed in the bibliography.

Step 3: Use catalogs to find books and media.

Search the Irving Shapiro Library catalog for books on your topic. Print or write down the citation and call number. Note the circulation status. When you pull the book from the shelf, scan the surrounding shelves for similar sources. For additional resources, search the Chicago Public Library, and WorldCat catalogs and request these items via interlibrary loan at librarian@aaart.edu (be sure to allow 2 weeks for delivery).

Step 4: Use indexes to find periodical articles.

Search for periodical articles by subject, author, title, or keyword in the LIRN databases (for off-campus access, contact the library for a User ID and password). If the full text of the article is not linked in the index you are using, ask the librarian for help locating the article in one of the library's print periodicals or obtaining it through interlibrary loan.

Step 5: Find Internet resources.

Use research guides on the library's website to locate materials on the Web.

Step 6: Evaluate what you find.

Evaluate the currency, reliability, authority, and purpose/point of view of your sources to make sure that they're appropriate for your assignment. If you have found too many or too few sources, you may need to narrow or broaden your topic.

Step 7: Cite what you find using a standard format.

As you research, record the complete citation for each source that you find. As you write, be sure to include an in-text citation for any information (quoted or paraphrased) that comes from an outside source, and provide a corresponding entry for each source on your Works Cited page.

Still have questions?

For help with any of these steps, visit the library or contact the librarian on Facebook, Twitter or email at librarian@aaart.edu.