*Research in the Social Sciences

A guide for individuals researching in sociology, psychology, political science, and neuroscience.

Information Navigation with PsycInfo

Date: Thursday, September 19, 2024
Time: 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Time Zone: Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
Campus: All Campuses

The library provides you with access to a multitude of resources, from physical books and archival documents to scholarly articles and eBooks, But which source is the right one for your project, and how do you locate it? Join Librarian Charlene to practice developing a search strategy to achieve efficiency and effectiveness in your research. Participants will learn how to:

  1. Understand a source’s informational record
  2. Develop a list of specific terminology
  3. Identify relevant subject headings
  4. Craft a Boolean search string
  5. Filter search results
  6. Reference searching
  7. Navigate APA PsycInfo

Prior registration is required: https://rooms.library.gsu.edu/calendar/workshops/infonavigation

This is an online webinar conducted va WebEx. You will receive an email containing instructions to access the webinar on the day prior to the session.
You will need speakers or headphones, or you can listen via phone. You do not need a microphone.

Related LibGuide: *Research in the Social Sciences by Charlene Marton

Welcome, Researchers!

Click through the tabbed box below to learn about The Research Process.

Remember: The Research Process is iterative, and you should find that your research journey moves back and forth through the outlined steps.

Then, take a self-assessment to identify your current positioning.

The Research Process

The Research Process is modeled after Carol Kuhlthau's Information Search Process (1991).


Research often begins with an observation that sparks curiosity, or a problem that needs a solution. This curiosity leads researchers to conduct basic thought experiments that deconstruct ideas. They may ask questions like: What patterns am I noticing? How might my perception differ from reality? What factors impact this situation? Who is impacted by this situation?

Note that, at this stage in the research process, these questions are left unanswered. A comprehensive study by Carol Kuhlthau and colleagues (1987) has shown that this can cause researchers to experience feelings of uncertainty, but this uncertainty is what motivates individuals to begin the next step of The Research Process.

Learn more about The Research Process through the lens of "research as inquiry," by watching the video, below.



To gain a better understanding of a topic, individuals in the second stage of The Research Process often engage in a broad survey of readily available information. This information can come from a wide array of sources, so it is important for researchers to maintain the understanding that information may not have been empirically tested or peer reviewed. It may include biases, and may be incorrect or incomplete.

Take Wikipedia, for example. Content found on Wikipedia can be created and edited by anyone, so information found there may be unverifiable. Or, information may need to be carefully investigated. That being said, Wikipedia content often links to references that can be thoroughly evaluated for future reading. Click here to find instructions for mining references from Wikipedia.

Rather than turning to Wikipedia for your exploratory research, try some of these Reference resources!


In academia, individuals can gain access to introductory (and more reliable) information in many ways. Librarians can point researchers in a confident direction because we have collaborated to collect, describe, organize, and ethically share access to resources across the world. Researchers can also enroll in courses centered around specific intersecting topics, and many instructors provide their students with carefully curated lists of citations for essential readings.

Smart Googling

Want to find websites by large organizations? Limit your Google Search to .org sites by typing site:.org at the end of your search.

REMEMBER: You should evaluate the credibility of .org websites, because any individual can pay to use a .org URL.

Identifying Core Concepts:

After gaining a general understanding of a selected topic by exploring readily available information, researchers use their surface-level understanding to engage in the process of identifying core concepts involved in their research. To help a researcher organize and consider relevant concepts, the following strategies are useful:

  • Determine the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your topic (remember that?)
  • Brain dumping: transferring thoughts, which may be incomplete, onto a surface or digital space for visualization.
  • Mind mapping: visually mapping your ideas in order to make connections and illuminate gaps in knowledge or scope.

Resource Collection and Question Development:

Once a researcher has gained a surface-level understanding of the core concepts involved in their topic, they must consult scholarly information to gain a more accurate and thorough understanding of the prior research on their topic. However, in research, there is always a lot of information (and disinformation), so researchers must conduct this step of The Research Process with intent.

During the resource collection stage, researchers engage in the process of developing a search strategy. This involves intentionally identifying keywords and subject terms that can be entered into a database to display a list of records. For detailed instructions on this process, click here. Note that, as researchers collect and review resources, they will be able to form specific questions regarding their topic. Eventually, a researchers transform their selected topics into clearly articulated research questions.

It is important to stay organized from the beginning of your project. This may involve paper, binders, and dividers. Or, it may involve a system of digital folders. Researchers may find Zotero to be useful, but there are many options and styles. What is most important is to remember to document your process so you can describe it in your later work. Others who read your research will want to know how you found your information, the details of your evaluation criteria, and the reasons behind your decisions to include and exclude certain sources.



After collecting a decent number of resources (usually between 10 and 30, depending on the scope of your project), researchers begin the process of engaging with, understanding, and evaluating the usefullness of each resource. Researchers then write an annotated bibliography (a contextualized list of references) and a literature review, which is an overview of existing, relevant, scholarly publications in their research scope.

Engage Meaningfully in 3 Easy Steps: Use the BDA Method

Before engaging with the resource:

  • Identify and circle or note the resource's creator(s) and creation date
  • Underline or note any credentials provided for the resources creators
  • Examine: What gives them authority/what makes them an expert? How might they be biased?
  • Review the resource's abstract, catalog record, or summary
  • Record something you already know (or think you know) about the resource's general topic

During your engagement with the resource:

  • Underline or note anything you do not yet understand
  • Note two things you wondered
  • Brainstorm and note where you might find answers to each question
  • Note any methodologies (systems of performing research) discussed in the resource
  • Note any statistical significance or inconsistencies

After engaging with the resource:

  • Create and record the resource's full bibliographic citation
  • Note three things you learned from the resource (and note page numbers)
  • Briefly summarize the main takeaways and outcomes discussed in the resource

The BDA Method is an adaptation of Donna Ogle's K-W-L Method (1986).


Once a researcher has synthesized themes and trends present in scholarly literature that has already been published, they can begin to identify under-studied areas within their research scope. At this point in The Research Process, researchers use the knowledge they have gained during earlier stages in The Research Process to ask more focused questions, with the intent of generating more knowledge. It is at this point where an individual can confidently articulate logical explanations and conjectures, citing sources, based on the information they have acquired.

Writing a literature review? Learn how:



Boston College Libraries provides a good, brief, focused overview of literature reviews. 

The University of Pittsburgh Library System offers good points to consider when writing a literature review. See the box "Why is a Literature Review Important?"

The University of West Florida Libraries also has good information to consider, especially this piece of sage advice, because literature review assignments can vary widely: "Rely heavily on the guidelines your instructor has given you." 

Research Design and Data Planning:

Once a researcher has conducted the first 5 steps of The Research Process, they have the option of further investigating their research.

First, researchers use knowledge gained during prior steps of The Research Process to form a specific research question and articulate an educated hypothesis. Then, they design a methodological research study. It is essential for researchers to use effective methodologies for their studies. Methodologies can be thought of as: structures to ensure that research is replicable, reliable, accurate, and ethical. Researchers then use their identified methodologies to construct a framework for carrying out research.

They then begin to collect and analyze data from various sources in order to conduct their study. This data may exist within a database, it may exist within complex texts, or some researchers generate new data.

The GSU Library offers a vast array of data services to assist researchers in this step of The Research Process.
To navigate to our Research Data Services research guide, click here.

Intro to Sociological Methodologies:


Theoretical Frameworks:


Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methodology:


Writing a Research Methodology:


Empirical Research Methods:


Participatory/Action Research:


Opinion Research:

Critique and Discussion:

After outlining their methodologies and designing a scientific research experiment, researchers ask for feedback from their professional peers. The critique of one's research helps an individual to avoid submitting their work to publishing companies with errors, biases, or inconsistencies.

Prepare to give/undergo a peer review:

Publication and Presentation:

Once researchers have gone through prior steps of The Research Process, they are ready to share their findings (regardless of the outcome) with other researchers. Remember: Research seeks to find answers to questions, not to construct illusions. Publication of authentic research allows researchers to contribute to the tradition of ongoing scholarly conversation. 

Prior to selecting a publishing company to which they want to submit their work, researchers do a thorough investigation into the ethics of the publishing companies to whom they reach out. After submitting an article to a scholarly journal or open education repository, if accepted, the article undergoes a rigorous review by subject specialists in the author's area of research. This extensive editorial peer review process is essential for maintaining the production of high-quality information.


Libraries have been working to assist researchers in publishing their work as Open Access and Open Education Resources for decades. To publish in coordination with the GSU Libraries, visit the Open Education Research Guide.


Why publish Open Access Resources?

It's about intellectual equity and broadening access to information. Learn more here:

Research Design Reference Materials

Research Talks

Research Ethics:
Research & Data:

Librarian Charlene

Researcher Tools