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How-To Guide for Research

What is research?

When writing a paper or developing a presentation, you frequently need to research to find the information you'll include in your final product. Academic and professional research requires more than just a quick Google search and the cutting and pasting a few relevant quotes. This research guide will take you step by step through the research process and show you how to use the library and the web to find good sources.

Research Process:

  • Define what problem you are solving and/or what information you need.
  • Locate resources in the library and online.
  • Select resources that help you best solve your problem.
  • Organize the information to help decide if you have enough and can communicate it successfully.
  • Use the information effectively and ethically. Think about what you have learned and the impact it will make.

Information Cycle

What is the Information Cycle?

The information cycle is the progression of media coverage of a newsworthy event. Understanding the information cycle can help you determine what kind of information you are likely to find about your topic.

Text Version of Infographic: The Information Cycle

The Day of an Event

Television, Social Media, and the Web

  • The who, what, why, and where of the event
  • Quick, not detailed, regularly updated
  • Authors are journalists, bloggers, social media participants
  • Intended for general audiences

The Day After an Event

Newspapers

  • Explanations and timelines of the event begin to appear
  • More factual information, may include statistics, quotes, photographs, and editorial coverage
  • Authors are journalists
  • Intended for general audiences

The Week or Weeks After an Event

Weekly Popular Magazines and News Magazines

  • Long form stories begin to discuss the impact on society, culture, and public policy
  • More detailed analyses, interviews, and various perspectives emerge
  • Authors range from journalists to essayists, and commentary provided by scholars and experts in the field
  • Intended for a general audience or specific nonprofessional groups

Six Months to a Year or More After an Event

Academic, Scholarly Journals

  • Focused, detailed analysis and theoretical, empirical research
  • Peer-reviewed, ensuring high credibility and accuracy
  • Authors include scholars, researchers, and professionals
  • Intended for an audience of scholars, researchers, and university students

A Year to Years After an Event

Books 

  • In-depth coverage ranging from scholarly in-depth analysis to popular books
  • Authors range from scholars to professionals to journalists
  • Include reference books which provide factual information, overviews, and summaries
Government Reports
  • Reports from federal, state, and local governments
  • Authors include governmental panels, organizations, and committees
  • Often focused on public policy, legislation, and statistical analysis

*The information on this page is used courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Illustration of how the Information cycle works

*The information on this page is used courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign