Four Step Research Process

There’s several ways to organize your research process. Different ones work for different people.

Some of us use a modified version of Polya’s 4-step problem-solving process:

  • Understand
  • Plan
  • Execute
  • Evaluate

Problems need to be stated clearly and succinctly (usually involving one person and one key event in their life).

Understanding involves knowing all relevant terms, how to access all records in all jurisdictions, etc. That’s not always an easy task, but it’s key to the entire process. Planning what to do comes next, Executing the plan (and tracking it) follows before the evaluation.

And then you go back to understanding–because either you solved the problem or you have more problems to solve.

Those with an interest in Polya (he was a mathematician) can read his book “How to Solve It” which focuses on the problem-solving process as it applies to math problems.

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