Research, in simplest terms, is information seeking. However, research is not just finding a piece of information. Instead, we can see research as a thorough examination of a topic. This process includes locating information, but also reflecting on what you're learned, adapting your ideas, organizing thoughts into a logical order, and then using those sources and ideas to produce a project or come to a decision.
Research in college is required for many papers, projects, and speeches. This does not mean you will be responsible for primary, or original, research. Primary research refers to collecting original data through surveys, experiments, interviews, or observations. Instead, the research you will conduct includes using search tools, like the library catalog, library databases, and the Web, to find existing credible research on a topic.
This chapter covers the beginning stages of research, often referred to as "pre-research." While you might be tempted to begin searching before completing these steps, the pre-research process will save you valuable time and effort. The first step in the pre-research process is to choose an interesting topic and create a research question. Next, using your research question, you can perform some background research to learn more about your topic. The background research will enable you to refine your topic and write a strong, focused thesis statement. Your thesis statement is what you will ultimately use to choose keywords and create search statements.
All of these steps are in preparation for using search tools, creating targeted searches, and retrieving the best information to use in your paper, project, or speech.