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Research for International Students

The ways research is conceived, approved, conducted, and reported in the U.S. may differ from how it is done in other countries. This guide describes those processes and some of the context for them.

The Research Process

Research involves many steps. As you work through the steps, you may find that you need to revisit earlier steps.

Research is a process with interconnected parts. You may revisit some parts many times.

  • Identify your question
  • Gather background information.
  • Plan your methods.
  • Get approval.
  • Do the research (once your project is approved).
  • Share your findings.

Availability of Research Content

Information is both a commodity and a public good. Some sources will be freely available to you but you will not have access to other sources.

In the U.S., the federal government does not buy subscription resources for the country. Instead, you will need to rely on resources that:

  • are freely available
  • your own institution provides through its own subscriptions
  • your institution's library can get from other libraries on your behalf
  • other libraries near you will let you use
  • you choose to buy as an individual

Library Services

Libraries exist to help you with your research.

The institution where you are a student will have some resources available to you. You do not need to pay to use those resources.

Public libraries near you will have resources you can use. Anyone can read books, journals, and newspapers in the library. You can apply for a library card to use those resources in other places too. Your library card lets you borrow books to use them elsewhere. Your library card also lets you use the library's online content.

Sometimes, you can also use some of the materials at academic libraries near you. It depends on that library's policies. It also depends on what the companies that make online resources will allow. Check for a visitor / guest policy or for notes about walk-in users. If you are not sure, ask the library.

  • Do you want a specific book or article? can help you identify the libraries closest to you that have that book or article. You can then check if that library will let you use the book or article you want.

References Used on This Page

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved from

Zudilova-Seinstra, E. (2016, Oct. 26). Because there's more to your research than the results [web log comment]. Elsevier Connect. Retrieved from

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