Library Notes Research Notes

The Research Cycle

In many of our courses we ask students to work on research papers. The research cycle is a series of stages to help students have a preliminary idea on what research contains as well as work through the process of researching information and drawing conclusions. The research cycle consists of the following stages (this research format from “Teaching Tip: Teaching the Research Cycle.” Accessed April 12, 2021.

1. Developing a general research question
Their should be a general question that you would like to investigate on your topic of choice. It is important early on to choose a topic that is of deep personal interest, otherwise the long process of researching and writing will be drudgery. For example, if you were interested in the Youth ministry in urban spaces you might ask “What are some criteria one must look at when developing youth ministry in an urban space?”

2. Doing preliminary research on the topic
Once you have a general question to guide you on your topic, you should start to do some basic research to gain a better understanding of the background and major issues surrounding your topic and your question. For example, if you wanted to know more concerning Youth ministry in urban spaces you might start to look at what other scholars or thinkers have written/spoken about concerning youth ministry in urban spaces.

3. Refining the research question
After you have done some preliminary research you should consider what you have learned and narrow down your research question to something more detailed or specific. Keep in mind that research questions tend to link two factors (variables), one of which might affect the other. For example, once you have seen what some thinkers have claimed concerning youth ministry, you might change your research question to “how does economy effect urban spaces and youth ministry?”

At this point you might also share some of your research findings and questions with others to get some feedback from them on the direction your research has taken and other questions or issues you might want to consider.

4. Doing more detailed research to answer the refined question
Once you have narrowed down your question you will need to do a little more research to fill in information that might be missing from your initial research. With your more narrowed down question you can find more precise information and go into more detail. For example, you might look at the effects of youth ministry in diverse economic urban spaces.

5. Drawing conclusions/developing a thesis
You know you have completed your research when you are able to draw conclusions and answer your refined research question. At this point you will be able to develop your thesis. For example, your thesis might be “how economic factors affect youth ministry in urban spaces and ways of reshifting focus towards more positive results.”

6. Present findings/answer to the research question
After you have drawn your conclusions and developed your thesis, you then need to organize your findings in a way that will allow you to share your research and conclusions with others. At this point you should present your research conclusions, usually as a thesis, and then support your conclusions with arguments developed through your research. Keep in mind that each discipline has its own accepted way of writing up such research reports, and that students need to know what is appropriate in your discipline.