This guide provides an outline of the basic information you need to get started with research at the Theology and Ministry Library (TML). Much of the content outlined is also covered in a series of workshops that the library offers. If you would like to attend one of those workshops or would like to discuss the research process further, please contact Jennifer Butler or Cody Mansley, and they will be glad to assist you. For additional information on citation practice, and writing papers, please also see the guide, Guideline for Academic Papers at the STM.
In theology, the research process typically involves the steps listed below, many of which are discussed in greater detail in this guide.
1. Define your research question
For this step, it is good to concentrate on what you want to learn in this project. The more specific you are able to get the question, the better. Be prepared, though, that you may need to adapt your question if you are not able to find enough sources to answer it. Giving yourself enough time to explore your topic is essential.
For guidance as you begin the research process, see When A Research Paper Is Assigned.
2. Gather background information
To determine if your research question is viable and to gather relevant search terms, you may need to do some preliminary searching and gather background information on your topic. Some helpful resources are listed below on this page.
3. Develop your search strategy
4. Search for sources
Take the query/queries you developed, and begin searching the library catalog and/or databases to look for appropriate sources. Again, see the Finding Books and Finding Scholarly Articles page for more information on how to explore these resources.
5. Evaluate your sources
Double check the items you gather in your research to make sure they are suitable for an academic research paper. This is a crucial step! For more information, see the Evaluating Sources page in this guide, and contact the TML staff and your professor if you have any questions.
6. Repeat steps 1-5 as many times as needed!
Do not worry if you have to repeat these steps a few times, as it can take a while to gather sources and ensure that a research topic is viable. If you give yourself enough time at the outset, you should be in a good position to complete this iterative process.
7. Write your paper and cite your sources
If you would like writing assistance, please contact the STM Writing Companions Corner. The TML staff are also available to help you with citation-related questions.
When developing your research question, it is often helpful to consult references sources for background information to help you refine your thoughts and gather search terms. One this page are a few resources (primarily electronic) that are helpful, and you can also find others in research guides.