The Research Process

The Research Process

Reviewing the Research Process

This guide will help you learn what you need to know to find the articles you need for your GEW research papers.  As a reminder, you can always contact a librarian for help:

http://biblio.csusm.edu/guides/research-assistance

You will need: your research assignment prompt, a piece of paper, and something to write with.

 

The Research Process

A drawing of the research process step by step.

Step 1: Get assignment

  • Make sure that you know exactly what your professors require for your assignment.

  • For example, are 5 scholarly journal articles required? More? Less? When is the due date? 

  • You can write the most eloquent paper in the world -- but if you don’t meet the professors’ requirements you still won’t do well on the assignment.

 

Stop! Do the following before you go on to the next step:

Find your assignment prompt for your research paper.

On a piece of paper, write down all of your requirements so you have them all in one place.

 

Step 2: Choose your topic

  • Your professor will have given you a prompt with an assignment and it is your job to start narrowing it down to a more specific topic.  

  • Feel free to keep returning to this step over and over again as you might want to revise your topic as you continue learning more about it during the understanding and analyzing steps.

 

Do the following before you go on to the next step:

Write down your general topic. For instance -- are you writing about monsters? College sports? Childhood development? Humor?

 

Step 3: Understand

  • As you are not yet experts in your field, in order to understand your topic you will need to do background research. This is a step you should do, even if your professors NEVER MENTION IT or makes it part of the assignment.  

  • Background research includes using sources such as websites, books, newspapers, and magazines (in other words sources other than scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles).  

  • These sources will give you a greater understanding of your topic so you can better understand the scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles once you get to that point.

  • Remember to evaluate any source you are using with VQE (Visual, Quality, Ethos) to make sure it is reliable and credible.

  • A good place to find magazines or newspaper articles, which you may want to use as background material, is Academic Search Premier, one of our most general databases.

  • As you are doing background research, jot down topic ideas and possible keywords.

 

Do the following before you go on to the next step:

Conduct a “research sprint” -- this is where you will go online and do a quick search about your general topic. You will want to spend between 15-30 minutes on this part. Try to learn as much as you can about your topic.

On your piece of paper, write down important key words as you find them. Answer the Who, What, Where, Why questions -- or maybe come up with more questions!

 

Step 4: Analyze

  • Now that you have a basic understanding of your topic, you can move on to looking for scholarly (peer-reviewed) journal articles.

  • Remember that the purpose of a scholarly (peer-reviewed) journal is to inform and disseminate original research to scholars. Readers should ask the following questions when trying to determine if an article is scholarly (peer-reviewed):

    • Who are the authors?: Generally researchers or scholars in the academic discipline and/or field.

    • What does it look like?: Scholarly articles may include quantitative data in the form of graphs, charts, and tables supporting research; delineated sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and bibliography.  It has technical jargon.

    • How are the sources cited?: Scholarly articles contain an extensive bibliography and footnotes which are formatted according to research discipline (e.g. MLA - Humanities; APA - Social Sciences, CSE - Sciences).

  • Academic Search Premier is a good general database for finding scholarly journal articles.  We will go through the steps below for how to do this.

 

This is where you will look for scholarly articles.

This process is explained in the  Academic Search Premier instructions page.

 

Step 5: Complete

  • Once you have the correct number of sources that your professor requires, as well as the information you need to answer your research question, it is time to write your paper.

  • Be sure to also accurately cite your sources.

  • A good source for MLA citation style is Purdue Owl, as well as CSUSM’s Writing Center, which has made a helpful handout with frequently used MLA examples.

Academic Search Premier Instructions

Academic Search Premier Instructions

Using Academic Search Premier to Find Articles

A screenshot of the CSUSM University Library homepage

  • Click on Most Popular

A screenshot of the library homepage with a red box around Databases: Most popular

  • Click on the first database, Academic Search Premier.

A screenshot the list of the most popular Databases.

  • If you are off-campus you will be asked to login.

A screenshot of the Sign-In For Off-Campus screen.  Username and Password must be inputted.

  • You will be taken to Academic Search Premier.  Click on Advanced Search to be taken to a screen where you can easily combine keywords.

A screenshot of Academic Search Premier with a red box around the Advanced Search Link.

  • You are now at the Advanced Search Page.  

A screenshot of the Advanced Search Page in Academic Search Premier.

 

  • This is where you will combine different keywords. Don’t get frustrated if your first search doesn’t work. Be willing to try different combinations of words.

  • To demonstrate how this works let’s pretend you are doing research on whether energy drinks help college students do better in school.  We’ll start by searching for newspapers and magazine articles since it is helpful to understand your topic by doing background research first.

  • Let’s first start with a single keyword. How many results do you get when you search for: 

    • Energy drinks

A screenshot of the Advanced Search Screen in Academic Search Premier with keyword in first box.

 

  • That’s a lot of results. 5,486! And a whole bunch of them aren’t useful to us. 

A screenshot of the Advanced Search Screen results page with 5486 results.

  • Now let’s try adding a second concept so that we can narrow down the results that we get.  Add in the concept college students to see how many results you get.  It’s down to 214.

A screenshot of the Advanced Search with two search terms combined and 214 results.

  • You can see that combining two terms (college students AND energy drinks) returns fewer results than if you only search one term. Now let’s try to narrow the number of results even more to only Magazines and Newspapers. (Look at the arrows below for how to do this).

A screenshot showing narrowing by Magazines and Newspapers.

  • As shown in the image below this narrows down your results to 25 magazines and newspapers. Look at how quickly we were able to get down to only 25! We started with X number of results, and very quickly narrowed down our results to ones that were more relevant to our needs. This is how you can become a more strategic and efficient searcher. 

  • Note that this icon  A screenshot of what the periodical icon looks like in Academic Search Premier.means it is a magazine article and this icon  A screenshot of what the Newspapers icon looks like in Academic Search Premier.  means it is a newspaper article.

A screenshot of limiting by Source Type of Magazines and Newspapers.

 

  • Once you feel like you have an adequate amount of background research and are armed with an understanding of your topic and a list of keywords you can use in your searches you can move on to look for Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journal Articles.

    • To do this, click on New Search.

A screenshot limiting to Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles.

  • This will take you back to Advanced Search where you can enter your keywords again.  To search exclusively for Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journal articles you can click on the Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals box, shown with the arrow above.

A screenshot of the results of a search for the a combination of two keyword terms.

  • Next we’ll discuss how to access an article in full once you found one that you would like to read.

    • There are different links that you may encounter in our databases which allow you to read the article in full, such as Get it! at CSUSM, PDF Full Text, and HTML Full Text.

    • To demonstrate this, a search for an article is shown in the image below. 

    • Arrows on the image point out two of the possible links you might encounter: Get it! at CSUSM and PDF Full Text 

Image results list with arrows pointing to HTML Full Text, PDF Full text and Get it! at CSUSM

  •  If your article shows a Get it! at CSUSM link follow these steps below. If you need PDF Full Text directions scroll down to the next step.

From the article entry OR from the list of article results: Click on the Get it! at CSUSM link. Note: This is a three click process. Academic Search Premier title showing arrow pointing to Get it! at CSUSM icon at title level

  • You will now be directed to the CSUSM library catalog.

    • Our system works to locate a database that will provide you access to a full text copy of your article (example shown in image below).  

    • Note: occasionally there is NO FULL TEXT available. If so, you can request the full text article via Interlibrary Loan.

    • You will see "Full Text Available at:” besides the databases that provide full text to the articles.

    • Make your second click on the database link provided. You will be taken to an article entry in the named database. 

Result after clicking on the Get it! at CSUSM, shows link to a database that offers the article.

  • From the named database article entry, locate a PDF Full text icon. Click three is on the PDF icon to download a copy of the article in full text. Congratulations, you now have the full text of your desired article.

    Image shows Academic Search Premier result for article and shows where to click to obtain full text.

  • If your article shows a PDF Full Text link follow the steps below. 

    • From the article entry OR from the list of article results: Click on the PDF Full Text link. This will download a PDF full text copy of the article for your use.

Image shows article result with the icon to get full text. Shows where to click to get article

  • A second method of obtaining the Full text of the PDF is to click on the title of the article.  You will see the PDF Full Text link on the left-hand side.  

Image shows article entry with PDF Full text link, arrow points to link on left hand side of screen

  • Now it’s your turn.  Using your own keywords this time, follow the steps listed in this guide to find materials on your GEW topic.
     

Academic Search Premier Video

Academic Search Premier Video