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Getting Started with Research: An Overview of the Process

A guide through the library research process. Contact a librarian for more!

Step 1 - Start with a Research Question

Starting with a research question means approaching your research with curiosity and an open mind. You should let your question guide you both in practical terms of helping you come up with search terms (keywords) as well as in avoiding bias by assuming you know the outcome or answer.

Check out this tutorial from Arizona State Libraries to get started:

Getting Started with Research - Choosing a Topic

Picking Your Topic

Sometimes you have too many ideas... or you have no idea where to begin.

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Getting Started 
  • Make sure you understand your assignment. Talk to your professor or graduate assistant if you have any questions.
  • Think about your interests. What would you like to spend time learning more about? Look over your course materials and lecture notes for ideas. Write down a list of keywords and phrases that interest you.
  • Use a topic ideas database such as CQ Researcher or Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Read current periodicals, browse the internet, and check out reference resources and encyclopedias such as Gale Virtual Reference Library
  • Be careful not to pick a topic too narrow or too broad. You might not be able to find enough relevant information or you might be overwhelmed with too much information. As you start your research, you might need to adjust your topic. 
  • Check out the Research Guide for your subject area, which will include links to helpful resources commonly used by researchers. Our subject specialist librarians create these guides -- contact yours with questions and to get personalized help with your research. 

Choosing Your Topic is Research (Video Tutorial)

Watch this short video from NC State University Libraries about choosing a research topic.

Selecting the Right Number of Keywords (Video Tutorial)

Check out the video from Kimbel Library to help you locate scholarly journal articles in library databases. 

The video is licensed under a Creative Commons (CC) BY-NC-ND 3.0 license: http://tinyurl.com/2t9all

Step 1 - Pause to Reflect

Step one not only requires that you come up wth a research question or topic that is narrow enough to explore for an undergraduate research paper, but it also requires that you consider what type of information you will need to find in order to answer your research question.

  1. Is your topic so large you could write a whole book or PhD dissertation on it? If so, you should try to narrow your topic down to something manageable within the time you have and the number of pages or words your instructor is requiring.
  2. Is your topic so specific that you can't find information about it? Go to step 3 to learn how to search more strategically and broaden your search out a bit.
  3. Do you need some basic facts, dates, or names of historical people or specific theories? If so, go on to step 2: Find Background Information.
  4. When you are ready, go to step 3 to learn how and where to search for information on your topic.

Mt Hood reflected in Mirror Lake, Oregon.

 Mount Hood reflected in Mirror Lake, Oregon, USA. Image in Public Domain.

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