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What to expect with library research

Library research is one of many types of research:

Library research Identifying and locating sources of factual information and expert opinion to answer a research question.
Experimental research Using specific procedures or equipment in a lab or other controlled environment to test a specific theory or hypothesis.
Field research Going to the site of a phenomenon under study to observe it.
Survey research Posing a series of questions to a group of people.
Archival research Closely examining original documents.
And more...

It is also a component of every other research type at some point in the process. Learning how to identify relevant databases and websites, do advanced searches, and get help from a librarian when you need it – are essential academic skills.

Library research isn't always a straightforward process and often looks like the image below. You won’t always complete the research steps in order and you can repeat parts of the process as you learn new information. Give yourself time to change directions or retrace your steps as you learn more about your topic, or even change your topic. This is a normal part of the process. Starting early will allow you to enjoy this process of inquiry, instead of being frustrated by it, when you are rushing to meet your deadline.

This graph is based on NCSU Libraries' Picking Your Topic IS Research!
Prof tip!

Dr. Andrew Abbott is an American sociologist who studies occupations. After interviewing professors about their research process, here is how he summarizes it:

"One starts from ill-formed general ideas, follows initial leads amid great confusion, and finally ends with a clear and important piece of research."

Abbot, A. (2014) Digital paper: A manual for research and writing with library and Internet materials. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Librarian tip!

This video shows how "messy" library research can be!

Picking Your Topic IS Research! [3:10 minutes] (NCSU Libraries) http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/picking_topic/
page last updated on: Tuesday 16 January 2018
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