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Dissertation Research in Education: Research Process

This guide was created to teach doctoral students to select, search, evaluate and organize their dissertation research project.

Research Process

If you haven't done research in a while, this is an overview of the basic research process. 

Research Steps

CHOOSE TOPIC
- Choose area of interest (topic selection)

GENERAL OVERVIEW
- Gain a general overview of the subject -- do this by consulting Reference books and other relevant books.

NARROW TO RESEARCH QUESTION
- Narrow the subject into a specific research question (& start an outline)

TYPE & AMOUNT OF INFO
- Decide what type: books, articles, essays, reports, studies, statistics, primary
   sources, conference proceedings, & dissertations,
- The amount of information – depends of length of paper 
- What types of sources might have that information: indexes, catalogs,
   bibliographies, & web search tools – these all provide lists of information
   sources.

CHOOSE ACCESS TOOLS & SEARCH
- Choose appropriate “access” tools
- - Library catalogs for books, audio/visual, etc.
- - Periodical indexes for journal & magazine articles (see Research
     databases)
- - Research databases for a combination of periodicals, books, essays,
     encyclopedias, & other information resources
- - Internet directories or indexes, search engines, mega/metasearch
     engines, webliographies or web gateways for web pages
- Develop a search strategy for each tool - Conduct a search

EXAMINE RESULTS
- Examine the results of your search & select only the most relevant and
   credible sources

EVALUATE SOURCES
- Read, take notes, evaluate sources

REPEAT AS NECESSARY
- Revise, refine and repeat steps 1-7 as needed (making corrections,
   adjustments to your strategy or backtrack to a previous search statement

Known vs. Unknown

When you are searching for information, your search takes one of two paths.  You are searching for a 'known item' or an 'unknown item.'  A known item is any part of a citation: an author, title, etc.  If you are searching for an unknown item, you need information about something, like attachment theory, and you are looking for citations on this topic.  A bibliography is a list of 'known items.'