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Research Step by Step  

Guide to research and finding information for HU students.
Last Updated: Sep 12, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Choose Topic

Choose a topic that interests you, one that will help you to learn more about your major and your future career. News sites and magazines are great places for ideas.


Find Background Information

Use encyclopedias and other reference tools both online and in print to gain some depth in your topic. Learn about recent developments and see what's important to scholars in your area of interest.


Define Research Questions

Think about what you want to know. Googling "malaria" really doesn't help you when you aren't sure what you need. Think of research as fill in the blanks. For example, some research questions on malaria might be:

  • What is the incidence of malaria world-wide and are some areas hit harder than others?
  • How does malaria affect the body?
  • What treatments are available and how do they work?
  • What environmental factors contribute to conditions favorable to the spread of malaria.

When you know what you want, it is easier to know when you have found it. A list a research questions will help you to know when your research is done.

Find Experts

Are there organizations where you might find an expert? This can be difficult to determine, but is well worth the work. Finding an individual or organization knowledgeable about your topic will help you to find the good research faster and write a better paper.

For malaria, you might try Googling "malaria organization" as a start. Speak with your faculty members and the librarian as well. They may be aware of organizations and individuals that should be at the start of your research.

Find Information

Use Library databases and the HU Library Catalog to find information on your topic. Visit the "Databases by Title" page for suggestions on databases to search. 


Evaluate Information

You must develop a critical eye when doing serious research.  Question assumptions.  Question methods.  Question conclusions.  Question everything!  It may be difficult the first few times, so consult your instructor or the librarian about any questionable books, articles or Web sites.

  • What are the credentials of the author of the work?  Does this make him/her an expert?
  • What is the purpose of the work and is it biased?  Be sure to balance your research among different viewpoints if you are researching something controversial.  Part of making a good argument is knowing your opponent.
  • Are stated assumptions and conclusions grounded in factual evidence and can you verify those facts?
  • Are other experts in agreement?

Write Paper/Project

Now that you have all your information, you should be able to write your paper. Be sure to follow your instructor's guidelines for the assignment.

If you need assistance, please contact the Student Services staff at to schedule an appointment or request a tutor.


Peer Review

Have one or two classmates review the first draft of your paper. Here are some guiding questions that will help them provide you with good feedback.
  1. List the main ideas of the paper in the order in which they appear. Does the order make sense?
  2. Name three weak areas of the paper where a statement is made that is either not fully explained or supported.
  3. Name three jargon words that are not adequately defined.
  4. List three questions that you still have on the topic (that might contribute to a more "complete" paper).
  5. State the topic as you understand it in three sentences. (Useful for comparing against the your intent.)

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