There are three steps to the research process:

pre-search       research       post-search


I. Pre-search

Know your assignment

  • Read the assignment and understand what is being asked of you.  
  • Ask your teacher for clarification on anything that is unclear to you.  
  • Know when the assignment is due.  

Create a research question

  • You may begin searching for information by topic but many topics are too broad. A good way to narrow your topic is to create a research question. This will help you limit results when researching and also write a clear, focused research paper centered on answering the research question.   
  • You may already have a research question in mind but most of us will need to do a little pre-search before defining our research question. You may also change or narrow your question as you begin your research.  



Locating Resources

  • Books, encyclopedias, periodicals, journals and web pages are all great resources.
    • Read your assignment requirements to what sources your teacher has required you to use for research. There may also be a requirement on how many sources need to be used. 
    • Your research question along with the assignment requirements will determine what sources to use. 
  • You will want to use varied types of sources (books, periodicals, etc) from various locations (databases, good websites, libraries, etc).
  • You will want to use the most reliable sources that are available.
    • Online sources can be as reliable as books but you will need to think critically about what online sources you decide to use. Online resources are not all equal! (See Beyond Surfing, Intelligent Research to learn about evaluating online sources.)
  • You will want to evaluate all of your sources. (See Evaluating Information.)

Create a list of key words or descriptors

  • Key words or descriptors are words that help you find information about or relate to your topic. Some databases give you key words and descriptors to help you find more relevant information in a timely manner.  

Take Notes & Record Works Cited Information

  • When you decide to use a source for information, take notes. (See Gathering, Organizing & Synthesizing to learn more about note-taking strategies.)
  • Paraphrase main ideas and record quotes that answer or relate to your research question.
  • Include page numbers (if provided) to use for citation later.
  • All facts, ideas, paraphrasing & quotes must be properly cited using the MLA format. (See Citing Sources.)
  • Record MLA citation information wherever you are taking notes.
  • Create a Works Cited page as soon as you begin taking notes.
  • Organize your notes.
  • Synthesize the information you have collected  with your own ideas and opinions.
  • Change your research question if appropriate.
  • Make connections and conclusions.
  • Return to researching if you have not adequately answered your research questions.

(See Gathering, Organizing & Synthesizing to learn more.)

Student Resources

RLS Library catalog
SHHS Library Catalog

SH Public Library 

St Helena Public Library


 EbscoHost Database

ABC CLIO Database
World Book Online
World Book
Google Books
Google Book Search


Citation Generator



Last Modified on October 14, 2013