Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

**Research and Writing**

Welcome! This guide will help you develop your research and writing skills by providing foundational knowledge of the iterative research and writing process as well as manageable steps for breaking down and navigating college research projects.

Still Struggling?

Conversing with someone else about your research and writing process can be incredibly helpful.  Contact someone at McKillop Library or the Writing Center using the links below.

Get Inspired

The first step towards choosing a topic is to find inspiration.  Sometimes your professor will provide a list of topics or a specific topic for an assignment.  If that is the case, choose something from those topics that interests you.  If you don't have a list like this to choose from, try some of these tips:

  • Review course material: Browse your textbook or class notes for topics that might interest you.  If you are researching for a history course, were there any individuals or events that interested or puzzled you?  If you are researching for a literature course, were there any authors or stories that appealed to you?  These are good leads to follow!
  • Browse media and web: Read news sites, watch educational or news television programs, or look at a newspaper or magazine.  Is anything piquing your interest?  You can always do an online search for your subject area and "topics" or "controversial issues" in order to generate a list of ideas for your research.
  • Talk with your professor: Your professors are experts in their fields and will be able to provide you with a direction for your research.  Make sure to go to your professor with a few options you've been considering so that they can let you know what might be the most viable for their research assignment.

Choose a Topic that Interests You!

Invest in the process: Effective research writing relies on curiosity and fluidity. Research and writing are iterative and symbiotic processes: you will move between them as you explore and showcase your topic. Your goal is to choose or narrow the topic and identify the lens through which you and your reader understand it. The key is finding a way to look at your topic that is interesting to you. 

Getting started: You may have received a very specific topic already, or you may have complete freedom in choosing your topic. Chances are you have some idea of a concept that you will investigate. With that concept in mind, the next step is to zoom in on what exactly you will research and present to your reader.  

Consider the scope of the assignment: You need to think about how much room you have to explore your topic. If you are writing a forty-page paper for an advanced class, you will have the capacity to cover many aspects of your topic. If you are only working with four pages, the way in which you present the information will need to be more specific, and you will need to limit to scope of your research. You cannot possibly write about every facet of your topic, no matter the page length. 

Think it through: To begin focusing your topic, you will need to consider your initial perspective and existing knowledge. Ask yourself or discuss with a peer: 

  • What do I already know about my topic?
  • What interests me about this topic?
  • What do I want to know about this topic?

What has surfaced through this brainstorm will help you identify the important components of your topic to be investigated. You will use these answers to guide the development of your research question(s) and keywords.