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ENC 1101 (Carruth): The Research Process: Home

The Research Process

This guide will assist you in planning and conducting research for a college-level paper. The process is described in two steps: Preliminary and In-Depth research.

Preliminary Research

What is Preliminary Research?

In this stage, you are defining your topic. What is this topic all about? Who cares about it? What are the significant events or issues related to the topic? Etc.

Preliminary research prepares you to do more in-depth research later. You will:

  • Learn what the topic entails
  • Begin to develop a vocabulary (keywords) for your topic
  • Select a focus for your topic


Download and complete the activity.

Sources to Use

For preliminary research, use sources that provide overviews and background information on your topic, such as subject encyclopedias. Some library databases are helpful:

In-Depth Research

What is In-Depth Research?

In this stage, you are gathering detailed information to answer your focused research question. You will:

  • Identify various sources that may provide expertise on your topic
  • Search using your keywords to find and access these sources
  • Think critically (compare, contrast and analyze) about the information you find
  • Figure out if any information is missing, and keep researching as needed
  • Note the information needed to cite each source

Sources to Use

For in-depth research, you should use a variety of sources. Some examples are: newspaper articles, scholarly journal articles, experts' websites, educational films, interviews with experts. Some library databases are helpful:


MLA Citation

MLA Citation Guides

Use these color-coded guides to help you develop correct MLA style citations.