Research Plan

Identifying your information need is usually the first step in a research plan. Develop this plan before you start to keep your research on track.

Another important element in your plan is a timeline. Plan your research well ahead of a deadline and leave plenty of time for searching and locating the items you will need.

The steps and elements in your research plan will vary depending on your assignment. The following are some of the basic steps in doing effective research for a course assignment or research paper. The first three steps will be covered in this module; other modules address the other steps.

STEP 1: DETERMINE ASSIGNMENT REQUIREMENTS
The amount of research you do will depend on your assignment. Pay close attention to your assignment, and ask your professor for clarification if necessary.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY A TOPIC
Having a topic that is interesting and manageable is important. It should neither be too broad nor too narrow. It should be flexible enough to be revised as needed.
Once you identify your topic, isolate the key concepts and start listing out possible synonyms or other keywords that you might use in your search for information sources.
STEP 3: IDENTIFY THE TYPES OF SOURCES NEEDED
Create a list of the kinds of resources that will provide the most relevant information. There are numerous types of sources (books, articles, sound files, etc) that may answer your research question. Understanding the differences between these sources will be useful.
STEP 4: SEARCH FOR RELEVANT SOURCES
Depending on what type of source you want, you need to decide which search tools to use: the ODU library catalog for ODU books, WorldCat for books not at ODU, library databases for journal articles, Web search engines for Web sites, etc. Keep a list of which databases you use and what terms you use in your search.
The search process will be a lot more efficient and effective if you use a variety of search techniques. [Note: The module on SEARCHING for Information Sources will cover the search tools and techniques.]
Keep in mind that while locating sources, you may find that your topic needs refining. Be flexible!
STEP 5: LOCATE THE SOURCES
Once you've searched for and identified the sources you want, you will need to locate those sources. For research papers, the sources will usually be found in a library or from a library web site. [Note: The module on LOCATING Information Sources will cover this step in the process.]
Be sure to note the full citation -- it will save you time later.
STEP 6: EVALUATE INFORMATION RESOURCES
Once you locate your sources, you need to critically evaluate each one of them. [Note: The module on EVALUATING Information Sources will cover this step in the process.]
STEP 7: CITE YOUR SOURCES
Citing your sources is essential to good, ethical scholarship. Always cite where you get your information completely and accurately. Always avoid plagiarism and observe copyright in all of your information searches. [Note: The module on CITING Information will cover this step in the process; the module on ETHICS of Information elaborates on these issues.]

Following the steps of a good research plan should make your research more efficient. Making lists and taking notes throughout the process will also help you.

So, you should already know what your information need is, or what your research assignment is. Now, you need to work on a topic.

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