Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Counseling Orientation

Information Literacy & Research Skills

The research process usually involves five broad steps. These steps are directly related to the skills of an information literate individual. Information literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.

Often you will complete one step before moving to the next, but there may be times when you will need to return to a previous step or complete multiple steps simultaneously.  

  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally

Getting Started

  1. Define your topic. Begin by brainstorming and writing down what you know about your topic. Note any questions (or things you need to find out) about your topic. When selecting a topic, avoid topics that are too broad or too narrow.  Topics that are too broad will be difficult to research because you will be overwhelmed with information and may have a difficult time sorting through everything.  If you discover that your topic is too broad, try focusing on a narrower aspect of the topic. If your topic is too narrow it will be difficult to locate enough information on the topic.

  2. Do background reading. A good place to begin is in a general or subject encyclopedia. This reading will help you identify keywords, concepts, people, places, etc. related to your topic. If you need assistance identifying appropriate sources for background reading consult with a librarian.  You can schedule an appointment by clicking here.

  3. Divide your topic into concepts. Once you have chosen a topic and done background reading, break your topic down into concepts and think of keywords and phrases for each concept.  Think of your topic in general and specific terms and write them down. The terms you generate can be used to create search expressions which will help you locate materials in the library catalogs, databases, and on the web. For help with this see the Search Strategy Builder developed by University of Arizona Library.

  4. Write your thesis statement and/or research question. This handout from the Center for Writing Excellence (CWE) can help.  If you have questions about developing a thesis statement schedule an appointment  with a CWE consultant.  To make an appointment click here.

  5. Locate sources on your topic. Appropriate sources might include books, periodical (magazine, newspaper, and journal) articles, websites, government documents, audio-visual materials, and interviews. Regardless of the type of source you use, you should always evaluate every source.  For tips on source credibility click here. For tips on database searching click here.  If you need assistance locating sources consult with a librarian - this can save you time and frustration.  You can schedule an appointment by clicking here. 

  6. Record your references as you go.  It is much easier to record the citation information when you first locate a potential source than it is to go back and try to find the same source later. 

  7. Keep a research log of where you searched (names of databases, search engines, etc.) the terms you used, and what you found. This will keep you from duplicating work if you are completing your research in stages.