International Baccalaureate Students

The Research Process in 4 Steps

 1. Identify and develop your topic

  • State your topic as a question you wish to answer
  • Test your topic question with your teacher
  • Identify main concepts and develop a list of keywords from your topic statement
  • Gather background information on your topic using specialized encyclopedias, newspapers, books, or authoritative websites

2. Identify the search tools you will need to find information on your topic

  • USF Libraries Catalog for books, media, and other online resources owned by the USF Libraries
  • USF Libraries Guides for access to information in articles and book chapters.
  • Use the Databases on this guide

3. Evaluate what you find

  • Carefully look at author credentials, date of publication, editor and publisher to determine authority and credibility of source.
  • Carefully examine the intended audience to for the source to determine if it is the appropriate source for your needs. Examine the content for obvious errors, objectivity, support documentation, and coverage of topic.
  • Understand the difference between scholarly journals, professional literature, and popular sources so you know how to use them

4. Use correct ciitation format  avoid plagiarism

  • Use the citation makers within the catalog and databases.  
  • Understand how the basic elements of the format style
  • Understand the pitfalls of plagiarism and how to avoid it.

Peer Reviewed Journals

Many scholarly journals are considered Peer Reviewed or Refereed.  Prior to publishing an articled in a peer-reviewed journal, the article is sent to a group of editors or scholars in the field to be reviewed.  The reviewers evaluate the methodology, research design, and other important aspects of the article prior to approving it for publication. Many databases allow you to limit your search to peer reviewed articles.

Primary vs Secondary Sources

A primary source is an original object or document -- the raw material or first-hand information. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, and art objects.

Examples include

  • diaries
  • newspaper articles written at the time
  • Speeches
  • Government publiscations

A secondary source is something written about a primary source. Secondary sources include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material. You can think of secondary sources as second-hand information.

Examples include

  • magazine articles
  • biographies
  • commentary or criticism
  • monographs (books), other than autobiography