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*Get Started with Research*

Easy to follow guide on essential steps of the research process: Choosing and refining a topic, creating effective search strategies, finding books and articles, evaluating information and more!

Identify & explore your topic

Choosing a Topic

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.

Exploring a Topic

After choosing a topic, you will need to locate sources that give basic background information about the subject.

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?

Some of the information that a background search can provide includes:

  • Broad overview of the subject
  • Definitions of the topic
  • Introduction to key issues
  • Names of people who are authorities in the subject field
  • Major dates and events

For help further investigating a topic, browse an electronic subject encyclopedia or searching your topic on the Internet to gain a broad overview of a topic.