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Research Strategy

Research Strategy

Information is a critical part of daily life, whether it's for class papers, speeches, projects, business needs, personal interests, or just general curiosity.  Knowing how to find and evaluate information are basic skills that can greatly increase your chances of success.


Regardless of the purpose, the process of finding information is essentially the same.  The method of looking for information in an organized, logical fashion is called a research strategy.  This step-by-step process ensures that you will find appropriate materials in an efficient manner and reduces the chance of neglecting important resources.


Recognizing and understanding what information you need, finding the relevant sources, and evaluating the quality of the information are important skills that you will use throughout your lifetime.  To help in evaluating sources of information, consider the following points:

  • reliability...are the facts accurate?
  • the writer an authority on the subject?
  • the work opinionated or biased?
  • purpose...does the material inform, explain, or persuade?

It's important to evaluate and re-evaluate information throughout each step of the research process.  The purpose of the research, including the audience to whom it's directed, will indicate the suitability of the sources and the information content.



Adapted from Purdue University Libraries

Last modified: December 20, 2010

A Closer Look

Research Strategy Breakdown

Selecting a Topic

You can choose a topic for your research by reading newspapers, magazines, or books; watching television; listening to the radio; or from personal experiences and interests.


Finding Background Information

If you are unfamiliar with the subject of your research, do some preliminary investigating to get an idea of basic concepts or theories, background developments and issues, and to put the topic into an appropriate context.  Use dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, or handbooks to find this type of information.


Refining the Topic

Once you have a basic understanding of the topic, you can determine the scope of your research and consider focusing on particular aspects or perspectives.  Broadening the topic may be necessary to find enough information, whereas narrowing may prevent "information overload."


Searching for In-Depth Information

In-depth information provides detail and comprehensiveness to your research.  There are two main types of in-depth information:

  • Retrospective: Appears after an event or idea occurs; often includes historical analysis or evaluation of the topic; typically found in books, treatises, review articles, and some audiovisual materials.  Use the MU Libraries' Library Catalog to identify many of these types of sources.
  • Contemporary: Representative of the time in which it is written; may have a very narrow or precise focus; found in newspapers, journals, magazines, and some web sites.  Use indexes or serach engines to locate references to these types of sources.


Locating Information

After identifying your sources, you may need to determine whether they are available on campus.  Some online sources may be available in full text, but for print resources, check for local holdings in the Libraries Catalog and locate them in the appropriate library.


Evaluating / Re-evaluating

Evaluate your information sources for their reliability, creditability, perspective, and purpose.  Re-evaluate your research throughout and make adjustments as needed.


If you need further assistance, please ask your subject librarian.



Adapted from Purdue University Libraries

Last modified: December 20, 2010