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6 Stages of Research

Walk through the different stages of the research process, breaking each step down into manageable and concrete action. This guide includes topic brainstorming, creating a research plan, finding information, taking notes, and citation.

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Librarian Hot Take

Instead of sending your professor a draft of your paper before it is due, send them an outline of the paper. 

  1. It will force you to organize your thoughts before you start writing. 
  2. Your professor is much more likely to read it carefully if what you send them is shorter.
  3. If there are structural issues or problems with your argument, your professor can point them out to you before you spend all the time and effort of writing the paper. 

Synthesizing Information

The purpose of this stage is to take multiple bits of evidence, opinion, theory, and personal experience and combining it into something new.

Writing a research paper or doing a research project has to include synthesis, otherwise, you are just plagiarizing the work of others. 

This is a youtube video from that explains the process of synthesis in an easy, digestible manner.

Organize from multiple sources

Rereading and organizing your notes

When synthesizing information, it really helps to refresh yourself on the evidence you have already collected. As you read, you will probably start to notice patterns in the evidence and concepts will start to form about how everything fits together. 

Tips for organizing your notes:

  • Write your pieces of evidence down on sticky notes or scraps of paper with page number and author. As you continue reading, group bits of evidence together by the patterns you see or by the concepts you have. 
  • Try organizing your information by fitting it into a theory you have read associated with your discipline. Include a section for evidence that disproves or doesn't fit with the theory. 
  • Write down your own thoughts or experiences with the topic, including the ones that have been challenged or disproved by the evidence you have read, then start organizing them with the rest of your notes. 

Note: This takes time!

Now that you have reread and organized your notes, it is time to take a step back. Give yourself some breathing room and return to your research question. 

  • Do you have an answer now?
  • What is the answer?

You might have already developed your thesis while you were organizing your notes, but if not, give yourself time to think and mull over the evidence and perspectives. 

Additional considerations:

At this moment you may realize that you don't have enough evidence to make the argument you want to make, in which case return to step 3 in the process and find the missing information. 

Writing an outline

Writing an outline is one of the best ways to organize your thoughts and craft an effective argument. There are numerous ways to write an outline, but the methodology isn't as important as just doing the process. With that said, outlines usually include a thesis statement, sub-sections of the arguments, and evidence that supports those sub-sections. For a more in-depth discussion of how to outline and why you should outline, watch the video below. 


This video from the University of British Columbia talks about the process of organizing notes, creating an outline, writing a research paper, and time management all with a delightful British accent.

Present the Information

Write to the Assignment

  1. Are there specific sections that need to be included in your assignment?
  2. Has the professor provided you with examples you can look at?
  3. Is there a rubric you can look at to determine what you will be graded on?

Writing Tips

  • Use topic sentences
  • Use transitions
  • Give yourself 24 hours after writing the first draft to go back and edit
  • Look for words that you repeat too often and replace them
  • Look through your writing for "is" and "be" verbs and replace them with more interesting verbs.
  • Avoid passive voice (Aka, indicate who is taking an action instead of saying that an action has taken place)
  • Write to your audience

Purdue OWL

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University is open to users worldwide. It contains numerous writing resources from style guides, structural outlines, to citation help. Where a roommate might be able to help you proofread, Purdue OWL can help you improve your writing. 

FHSU Writing Center

Located on the main floor of Forsyth Library, the Writing Center offers trained consultants to help you tackle those writing assignments. From choosing a topic to perfecting your documentation style, our consultants can help you to strengthen your writing skills and prepare you to take your place in the world.  Appointments are recommended and can be made online on the Writing Center site.

Citation Style Guides

FHSU APA Guide: quick citation guide with examples.

FHSU MLA Guide: quick citation guide with examples.

FHSU Chicago Style Guide: quick citation guide with examples.

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