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Classics: Research Skills

The research process has six steps, described below: 

Step 1 | Find a topic you're interested in.

Step 2 | Identify keywords connected to the topic.

Step 3 | Use these keywords to search for articles and books related to the topic in library databases or Google Scholar and scan them to see if they're relevant to your research.

Step 4 | Sometimes, your searches will lead you to change your research topic, which is okay; just go back to Step 2 and identify some new keywords.

Step 5 | Evaluate the sources you've gathered for accuracy and relevance to your topic and cite them properly.

Step 6 | Synthesize the sources you've evaluated into a clear, original thesis statement and write your research paper.

The Research Process


These three words (And, Or, Not) are used as connectors between your search terms. They are Boolean Operators.

"And" | Narrows the number and focus of results, and results contain sources with all search terms. For example:

  • "child obesity" and Maryland 
  • "video games" and teens

"Or" | Broadens the number and focus of results, and results contain sources with any of your search terms. It's used with synonyms and related terms. For example:

  • obesity or overweight 
  • children or juveniles

"Not" | Narrows the number and focus of results and eliminates sources containing the term after "not". For example:

  • Washington not DC (for articles about the state.)
Boolean Operators Graphic


Determining if a source is credible and reliable can be challenging. Use the SIFT method to help you analyze information, especially news or other online media.

STOP | Do you know anything about the website or source of information you found? What about its reputation? It's purpose? You'll want to know these things before you read it, cite it, or share it on social media. 

INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE | It's important to know the expertise and agenda of your source. Try a Google search of the author or publisher to find out what others say about them. Open multiple tabs. 

FIND TRUSTED COVERAGE | Look for the best information on a topic or scan multiple sources to see what the consensus is. Find something in-depth and read about more viewpoints. Even if you don't agree with the consensus, it will help you to investigate further.

TRACE CLAIMS, QUOTES, & MEDIA | Is there a study or report mentioned in the article? Find the original report to see if it was accurately reported. What about images? A reverse-image search may be necessary. 

Evaluate sources with the SIFT method