Research is a thoroughly individualized process; there is not set "correct" or "incorrect" way to study a subject, object, or idea.
It is helpful, however, to think about research as a "process" similar to the way that one uses this concept when creating artworks. In painting, one first needs to prime the canvas, begin layering paint to define general forms, then--when completing a work--add on the finishing touches to highlight forms more clearly.
Likewise, in research, one begins with:
- a general theory: to set the frame, or "prime" the canvas for your research knowledge
- a general context: to begin layering general forms in your composition
- specific case studies: to put the finishing touches on your research.
In addition, be strategic about the TYPE of information source used at various points of the research process:
- GENERAL THEORIES: quick reference resources such as encyclopedias, guides, historical surveys, or handbooks are ideal ways to become an “instant expert” in subjects. Most people naturally gravitate to open access resources such as Wikipedia; however, academic and critical reference works available in print or online through the library collection offer the same research supports, but will ground researchers in accepted scholarly theories, rather than populist opinions on topics.
- GENERAL CONTEXT: books, exhibition catalogues, or monographs (publications on a specific subject or an aspect of a subject) are ideal for focusing research based on a more specified context.
- SPECIFIC CASE-STUDIES: as peer-reviewed journal articles or scholarly magazine publications focus on specific subject-based, geographic, or historical topics within a general context, these unique essay-like forms of writing are ideal for focusing research even further to specific case-studies.