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Research Process and Scholarship

A guide for capstone and thesis students

Research is cyclical in nature. 

  • Stage 1:  Initially research is done to verify that there is enough written to support your initial topic.  The information at this stage helps to write your introduction and set the stage for coming research.
  • Stage 2:  Transitions from general information about the topic to problem-based research where you can identify the evidence needed to support your research questions and the literature review
  • Stage 3: Critically review the research done to this point and see if more is needed.

 Learn More with SAGE Research Methods, a library database designed to help you use research effectively.

Additional Resources

Stage One of the research process helps you verify need and the information that is needed to successfully write your introduction.

1.  Select a topic that has meaning for you.  Think of an issue or problem you wish to explore in more depth.

2. Use handbooks and encyclopedias along with textbooks to locate background information.  Answers: Who, What, When, Where.

  • Define terms
  • Find theories & theorists
  • Establish timelines
  • Track Trends
  • Identify major authors & researchers
  • List keywords and ideas

3. Clarify the purpose of your project (will become your thesis)

4. Select which databases best fit your topic and develop list of search terms

  • Use database thesauri to define terms
  • Test different combinations of search terms in database(s)
  • Expand synonym list for each of the main ideas
  • Don't forget to review recent theses and dissertations

Stage Two helps you focus on evidence derived from the research studies you have located.  Grouping the search results by research questions helps you organize the Literature Review.

1. Develop thesis.  If you think of the thesis as a problem to be explored, then the temptation to write "about" a topic can be kept in check. 

2. Search for studies that align with your main ideas.

  • The articles may support or refute aspects of your thesis. 
  • The articles should be published in peer-reviewed journals. Always get your instructor's permission to use websites, government documents, or study papers & reports.
  • Look for patterns of evidence.  It is a positive sign when the abstract begins, "This study..."

3. Identify the three or four research questions you want your research to answer in support of your thesis.  Focus your searching on these smaller questions and you will have more satisfactory results. Researchers often are looking for one of two things: A cause for a problem (Why) or a solution to a problem (How).

PICO is a model of research used in many professions to identify key research questions:

P = Population (participants, problem, process, point of view, primary event)

I = Intervention (therapy, treatment, causes or etiology, improvement, interpretation, impact)

C = Comparison (Opposing arguments)

O = Outcome (measurement)

Stage Three: Read and think critically to synthesize the collected body of research. Review your purpose, thesis statement, and research questions to see if they need to be modified based on your new understanding of the topic.

Modify and research again as needed to ensure that you have located all key studies related to your thesis.

If you have too many articles, then you may need to narrow your topic.  Are there specific populations or situations that you can use to focus your search?

If you need more research, think about your topic more broadly and look for related studies that may not "fit" exactly what you hope to do but support the development of your topic.

Use information ethically... carefully decide what to summarize, what to paraphrase, and what to quote.  Remember, only about 10% of the paper should be direct quotes.  Provide in-text citations or footnotes and a complete reference list for all content used that is not common knowledge.

If you have questions about your research process, contact your instructor or a librarian.

The best way to locate discipline databases is to use your Subject/Program Guide.

Also check out the following databases: