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Information Literacy & Research Basics


Starting Your Research at Pratt
Conducting Research: 10 Steps in the Research Process


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Starting Your Research at Pratt

Librarians and staff at the Pratt Institute Libraries are here to help you do research, find information and become “information literate.” Being information literate means you are able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use the information effectively.

The following ten steps outline a simple strategy for finding information for a research paper and documenting the sources you find. Depending on your topic and your familiarity with the library, you might need to reorganize or recycle these steps. Use this outline as needed. We are here to help you at every step in your research, so visit, email or call us.



Conducting Research: 10 Steps In The Research Process


1. Formulate your question

State your topic as a question and identify the main concepts, terms or keywords in your question. For example, if you want to find out about temporary architecture you could pose the question, “how is temporary architecture being designed and used?”

2. Get background information  

Look up terms and keywords (e.g., “temporary architecture” or “temporary buildings”) in the indexes to general and subject encyclopedias, and read articles in these encyclopedias to set the context. Check the bibliographies at the end of the encyclopedia entry, and note relevant books or articles listed.

3. Refine your search topic

Now that you have some background information, refine your topic even further. For example, you could narrow the broad topic of temporary architecture and research site-specific temporary architecture in the United States. Refining your topic will make your next research steps easier!

4. Consider your resource options

Do you want to use books, articles in magazines/journals, multimedia (online or on DVD)?

5. Select the appropriate tool

  • Looking for articles in magazines and journals? Use periodical indexes and abstracts to find citations to articles (print or online), and search in our online databases to find both citations and full-text articles.
  • Looking for books, journals or multimedia? Use Pratt’s online catalog PrattCat.

6. Use the tool

Use keyword and subject searching to increase or decrease results for narrow and/or complex search topics. Write down the citation (author, title, etc.) and the location information (call number and library).

7. Locate your materials

  • Note the circulation status (is the book checked in, lib use only, etc?). When you pull the book from the shelf, scan the bibliography for additional sources.
  • Record the information via email, printing, scanning, photocopying, or photographing.
  • Organize the information using a notebook, folder, flickr, or Google documents.
  • Cite the information you find by recording the author, title, date, pages, etc.

8. Analyze and evaluate your materials

  • Analyze basic information: who is the author? Who published it? What is the date?
  • Analyze content: What type of audience is the author addressing? Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda? Does the work update other sources, substantiate other materials you have read, or does it add new information? Is the material primary or secondary in nature? Is the author's point of view objective and impartial?

9. Organize and write

Compose a thesis statement. Using the sources you found, develop your own ideas based in the information. Use quotations from these sources minimally, and to emphasize your own ideas.

10. Compose your bibliography

Always cite your sources. Avoid plagiarism (knowingly representing the work of others as your own). Be aware of copyright in materials you both use and make, and if you publish articles, make art, or post images online, protect your work (see options for licensing your work on the Creative Commons website).

Citing a work:

  • Gives appropriate credit to the authors.
  • Allows those reading your work to duplicate your research and locate the materials you cited.


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