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Conduct Research

Research Process

Learn about research steps, literature reviews, and citation tools

Research Methods

Learn the difference between quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research

Capstone Research

Find resources to help guide your capstone research projects


Research Support

Make an Appointment

Schedule a meeting with a librarian to learn about refining your topic, search strategies, evaluating sources

Research Help

Get help starting your research paper, finding research guides and tools, and more



Research Process

Get Started

 When you are just starting on a research project, we recommend you follow these steps.

First Steps


First Steps

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Conduct background research
  3. Refine your topic
  4. Create a research question


In-Depth Research


In-Depth Research

  1. Develop a search strategy
  2. Search
  3. Collect and organize your citations using online tools to help cite, save, and manage your sources.
  4. Evaluate your results and sources
  5. Adjust and/or repeat your search


Start Writing


Start Writing

  1. Start writing (visit the Start Writing Research Guide for more information)
  2. Review and revisit research
  3. Cite and edit



How do I organize my sources?

Online tools will help you cite, save, and manage your sources!

  • Organize Your Research - Visit this page to explore more organizational research tools.
  • Zotero - Download this free online research tool that works with your web browser to collect sources and build your personal library.
  • Cite Your Sources Guide - This guide will show you how to cite sources in various academic styles.



What is a literature review?

A literature review is a discussion of current published materials in a particular field or topic of study. Understanding what others have written on your topic is important. You can then use those sources to help you explore your research question to better support your final argument.

Assembling and synthesizing those sources is the first step of a literature review, the foundation of your research. A literature review is not an annotated bibliography. In an annotated bibliography, the researcher analyzes individual articles and/or sources, and provides a summary of each item. A literature review synthesizes and evaluates the literature as it relates to the research question and provides a broad overview of the state of research on a particular topic.

You should be able to synthesize and discuss the important studies and themes of the literature before you make your original argument.





Research Methods

What are research methods?

Research methods are specific ways of gathering evidence and data for original research. The most useful method depends on the type of subject matter. Methods usually fall into one of two categories: qualitative and quantitative.

Quantitative Research


Quantitative Research

Quantitative research involves numerical data and requires strictly quantifiable measurement. A quantitative approach is one in which the investigator uses surveys, statistics, and experimental strategies of inquiry. *


Qualitative Research


Qualitative Research

Qualitative research involves subjective textual data and requires a human interpreter. A qualitative approach is one in which the investigator uses strategies of inquiry such as narratives, ethnographies, phenomenologies, or case studies with the primary intent of developing themes from the data. *


Mixed-Methods Research


Mixed-Methods Research

A mixed-methods approach is one in which the investigator uses closed-ended measures and open-ended observations that involves both numeric information as well as text information, so the data represent both quantitative and qualitative information. *



Research Definitions Source:  * Creswell, J.W. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Method Approaches. Sage Publications, 2003. 


Human Subject Research (IRB)

Regardless of the method used, research involving human subjects must be approved and monitored by an internal Institutional Review Board (IRB) to validate that the research meets certain basic ethical standards.

Research with Human Subjects (IRB)


Undergraduate Capstone Research

The undergraduate capstone project is a process in which students pursue independent research on a topic of their choice in relevant disciplines with the guidance of a faculty mentor that reflects a deep understanding of the topic.

Examples include:

  • Senior capstones
  • Honors capstone or thesis
  • Exhibit of artwork


Graduate Capstone Research

The graduate capstone project is an original work in which students reflect on the interdisciplinary courses they have taken and apply it to examine a specific idea/topic.

Examples include:

  • Master’s degree thesis
  • Doctoral dissertation
  • Projects determined by individual programs

Organize Your Research

Keeping your sources and citations organized with digital tools (other than Google Drive) can make research a breeze!

Explore the tools available to help you keep your sources organized and easily retrievable.

Be on the lookout for Zotero workshops offered throughout the semester to show you how to get started using these tools!



  • Free, open-source
  • Fast and easy to learn
  • Online Zotero Workshops available each semester with your MSMU Librarians!
  • Download software on your own device and sync with web Zotero
  • What can it do?
    • Organize records and citations for articles and books with folders
    • Store PDFs
    • Highlight text and take notes
    • Tag records

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Need Help with Citations?

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Research Guide:
Cite Your Sources