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Research Worksheet: Research Worksheet

Steps by step guide to beginning research.

Research Worksheet Printable versions

How to do Research

Systematic Serendipity

Read this in conjunction with the Research Worksheet in the next box to develop your research skills; learn to work smarter, not harder; and ensure your research efforts are efficient and effective.

In a phrase, research is the process of “USING SOURCES TO FIND MORE SOURCES” (aka Systematic Serendipity). Here you will find a brief explanation of the basic steps involved in research while applying this principle.

Select and Focus a Topic:

Select a topic. If you can select your own topic, pick something that is of interest to you and for which there are sufficient resources available. Be careful not to select a topic that is too broad or too narrow but make sure you limit your topic to just one concept. Use this focusing exercise to guide you in the early stages of your search.

Turn your topic into a title. Allow yourself the freedom to change the title, outline and even the topic as your research informs your ideas.

Write a thesis statement or statement of purpose: what one question do you want to answer about this one topic. Asking yourself who, what, when, where and why about the topic will help you focus where you want to go with it. 

Develop a Preliminary Outline. Use the keywords from the title and thesis statement as key search terms and as the basis for a preliminary outline. This will help guide you in the early stages of your research. It will inevitably change as you gather information and refocus your topic.

Identify terminology:  Make a list of what you already know from off the top of your head:  authors, titles, and keywords. Think about synonyms, broader terms, narrower terms and related terms, alternate spellings, scientific or technical terms as well as common terms.

An extremely valuable tool to further assist you in identifying good search terms is the Library of Congress Subject Headings Online (LCSH) <> search platform. Here you can look up your common, colloquial concepts to find universally recognized subject headings. Also, use LCSH Online to discover how your selected terms fit within their related subject hierarchies (click on <Church work> below).

For example a search for <ministry> leads to <Lay ministry> which in turn retrieves this useful information:

·  Variants

·         Ministry, Lay

·         Volunteer workers in church work

·  Broader Terms

·         Church work

·  Narrower Terms

·         Lay preaching

·         Lay readers

·         Lord's Supper--Lay administration

·         Lord's Supper--Lay celebration

·  Related Terms

·         Laity

·         Priesthood, Universal

·         Volunteer workers in Christian education

Get Background Information:  Get acquainted with your topic by searching broad range tools like encyclopedias and dictionaries. In addition to general information on the subject, these will give you a basic outline, the broad parameters of your topic, a bibliography of highly recommended sources as well as a recognized expert in the field. This will help you focus your research topic as well as enhance your understanding of the topic as you read more detailed resources.  The bibliographies and authors of encyclopedia articles are excellent sources for further research, which is a prime example of Systematic Serendipity, i.e., using sources to find more sources. To easily identify encyclopedias and dictionaries on any topic, use the Discovery Catalog with this formula: <su:encyclopedias OR dictionaries>* then whatever your topic, either as a subject or as a keyword. Like this:

su:encyclopedias OR dictionaries AND “lay ministry”

su:encyclopedias OR dictionaries AND kw:”lay ministry”

If you can’t find anything on your specific topic, try searching its broader context (e.g. search the broader concept of “church work” if “lay ministry” doesn’t retrieve any results). Use the LCSH Online to identify broader, narrower, related terminology.

*NOTE:  the terms "encyclopedias" and "dictionaries" must be plural; OR must be in all caps

Tools to search.  Using the authors, titles and terminology you now have:

Go to the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) (i.e. WorldCat Discovery and WorldCat Discovery Advanced to locate library materials related to your topic.  Apply “Using sources to find more sources” to your search results (hit list) by examining the Subject field in the Description portion of each record. This will provide more appropriate terms with which to find more relevant resources. When you locate materials that are helpful, use their respective bibliographies to identify even more sources; another example of “Systematic Serendipity”

In addition to searching books, you may want current information not yet published in book form. Periodicals will need to be searched for the most current scholarly information available on a subject. Searching periodical indexes and abstracting sources will identify for you the articles available on your topic. These can be accessed through the Discovery Catalog by limiting the Resource Format to “Articles” or Content Type to “Peer Reviewed”. Better still, use “Find Databases” for a more focused search of specialized indexes and databases related to the selected category, i.e., ATLA Religion with Serials Plus, BAS Online, Christian Periodical Index. Use the authors, keywords and subject headings you discovered from your reading of encyclopedia articles, the records that you found in your Discovery catalog search and the bibliographies from the books you’ve discovered. 

Recommended Reading for help in Library Research:  Badke, William.  Research Strategies:  Finding Four Way Through the Information Fog, 5 ed. Bloomington, IN: IUniverse, Inc., 2021.  ISBN: 9781663218742. Call # 001.42/B142r/2021.

Use the Research Worksheet below to guide the early stages of your research. It is not necessary to fill in all the blanks; use only those that are relevant.


Last updated February 2024.

Research Worksheet

Research Worksheet

Use the Research Worksheet to help you walk through each step of the Research Process without losing your way. Each step is designed so you can add any new information that you may find; No need to repeat the same information over and over again. The lines are merely prompts.  Include as much or as little information as is needed for the research project.

Winding Road

 napkinwriter.wordpress.com4322 × 2007 February 26,  2013

Select & Focus your Topic
1.  Select a topic: ___________________________________________
2.  Turn your topic into a title:  _________________________________
3.  Write a thesis/purpose statement: ___________________________

4.  Prepare a preliminary outline:
 I.  Introduction
II.  ___________________________________________________
   A.  _________________________________________________
   B.  _________________________________________________
III.  __________________________________________________
   A.  _________________________________________________
   B.  _________________________________________________
   C.  _________________________________________________
IV.  __________________________________________________
   A. __________________________________________________
   B.  _________________________________________________
V.  Conclusion

 5.  List known terminology:
 Authors: ______________________________________________
 Titles of books or articles: ________________________________
 Keywords: ____________________________________________

 5.1 LC Subject Headings (click here to access): select a term(s) representative of your topic and search LCSH Online for universally recognized subject headings.
Variants: ______________________________________________
Broader Terms: ________________________________________
Narrower Terms: _______________________________________
Related Terminology: ____________________________________

6.  Get background information from general/specialized encyclopedias: Discovery catalog: su:encyclopedias OR dictionaries AND [your topic].

Before you go any further, analyze your search results to retrieve the best sources: Use Analyzing Search Results Worksheet

   Titles used:  1.  ___________________________________________________
                       2.  ___________________________________________________
                       3.  ___________________________________________________
                       4.  ___________________________________________________
                       5.  ___________________________________________________

Use Sources to find other sources
Record here any newly discovered pertinent or relevant information gleaned from encyclopedia articles:
Persons; article author: _____________________________________________
Places:  _________________________________________________________
Events:  _________________________________________________________
Keywords:  ______________________________________________________

Prepare a Bibliography adding selected titles from encyclopedias & dictionaries; put citations in proper style.

7.  Refocus topic based on information learned from encyclopedias and dictionaries as needed:
Change Title: ____________________________________________________
Rewrite Thesis/Purpose Statement: __________________________________

Adjust Outline:
I.  Introduction
II.  _________________________________________________________
   A.  ________________________________________________________
      1. _______________________________________________________
      2.  _______________________________________________________
B.  ________________________________________________________
      1.  _______________________________________________________
      2.  _______________________________________________________
   C.  ________________________________________________________
      1.  _______________________________________________________
      2.  _______________________________________________________
III.  _________________________________________________________
   A.  ________________________________________________________
      1.  _______________________________________________________
      2.  _______________________________________________________
   B.  ________________________________________________________
      1.  _______________________________________________________
      2.  _______________________________________________________
   C.  ________________________________________________________
      1.  _______________________________________________________
      2.  _______________________________________________________
IV.  _________________________________________________________
   A.  ________________________________________________________
   B.  ________________________________________________________
   C.  ________________________________________________________
V.  Conclusion

Tools to Search
 8.  Search the Discovery catalog: use searchable access points identified from 5 & 6 above. 

Analyze your search results to retrieve the best sources: Use Analyze Search Results Worksheet

 Use Sources to find other sources:  Record any new relevant searchable access points gleaned from bibliographic records:
 Dewey Decimal number(s): _________________________________________
 Subject Headings:  ___________________________________
 Authors:  ______________________________________________
 Keywords/Descriptors (from Tables of Contents, Notes, Titles):  __________________________________

Bibliography:  Add selected citations to bibliography (in proper style); very briefly annotate each title; indicate why each title has been chosen and which part of the outline it will support:

9.  Select appropriate Periodical Indexes:  from the Library’s Web site select Find Databases. Use A-Z Databases list

Devise Boolean Search Strategies for each database* and index (as needed):        _______________________________________________________

*NOTE: online databases use these field codes: SU , AU ,TI , and TX  for subject, author, title and keyword respectively. Include a space after each code and before the search terms.

Apply Limits peculiar to each database and index: 

Analyze your search results to retrieve the best sources: Use Analyze Search Results Worksheet

Bibliography:  Add titles to the bibliography (in proper style); very briefly annotate each title; indicate why each title has been chosen and which part of the outline it will support. 

10.  Select appropriate Web sites.  Use Scholarly Internet Search Engines compiled and maintained by librarians and scholars (work smarter not harder):         

11.  Use Sources to find other sources:  Record any new relevant additional searchable access points gleaned from each article, book, bibliographic record, Web site used:
   Authors: __________________________________________________
   Persons:  _________________________________________________
   Places:  __________________________________________________
   Events:  __________________________________________________
   Keywords:  ________________________________________________
   DDC/LC numbers: __________________________________________
   LC Subject Headings:  _______________________________________
   Bibliographies; Cited References - add to your own bibliography if useful.

12. Evaluate each resource found (use Evaluating Sources).

Last updated February 2024.

Work smarter not harder. Ask Miss T

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Janet "Miss T." Tillman
Robert L. Powell Library
The Master's University
21726 Placerita Canyon. Rd.
Santa Clarita, CA 91321