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Writing the Research Paper: The Research Process

Planning Your Research

Some things to consider as you begin your research:

1.  What is your topic?  What questions do you want (or need) to answer?  What do you already know about this topic?

2.  What type of information will you need?  This type of information could include background information, statistics, personal narratives, scientific studies, primary source information, current articles in journals, newspapers, etc.

3.  What are the possible sources you can use to obtain this information?

4.  What search terms will be most appropriate or helpful in locating the information you need?

5.  Keep record of the searches and the resources you use, so in the event you must repeat some searches you will have your basic search strategy on record.

The Research Process

A Guide to the Research Process:

*Remember to start your research project/paper early.  Research is time-consuming and involves many steps.  If you have any questions and/or need assistance, please stop by the research help desk and ask a librarian for help.

1.     Select a general topic of interest to you (or one that has been assigned).

2.     Write down all the ideas you can think of related to your topic and decide how you plan to address them in your paper.

3.     Read as much general information about your topic that you can find to become familiar with the subject (make sure the information is from trusted and reliable sources).

4.     Make a list of general keywords related to your topic while you are doing your background reading. This develops your search vocabulary.

5.     Use these keywords to search for additional information for your paper (use the library databases and other resources to expand your search).

6.     Formulate a thesis statement which clearly defines the purpose of your research paper.  This is a declarative sentence that asserts the position a paper will be taking.  This statement should be both specific ad arguable.  Generally, the thesis statement will be placed at the end of the first paragraph of your paper.  The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.

7.     Locate current and specific information to defend your thesis statement (Library Databases, Journals and Periodicals, Online Catalog and the Internet).

8.     Evaluate your research sources.

9.     Organize and communicate the information you have found  (compose your paper).

10.   Cite your sources, compose your bibliography.


Some Basic Research Tips

1.  Make sure your topic is not too broad or too narrow.  A topic that is too broad lacks focus and the amount of information you retrieve may be overwhelming.  A topic that is too narrow may present the problem of not being able to locate enough material to write your paper.

2.  Use books.  Books are often the best resource to start your research.  They will provide you with a good overview of your topic.  When reviewing books, look at the index in the back of the book to find specific information related to your research topic, or look at the table of contents in the front of the book to view chapter titles and check for subject relevance.  You can use the library catalog to search for books.  Keyword or subject search will provide the most results related to your research topic.

3.  You may also want to look at and review subject related journals or magazines in the library.  Most of the library's journals are found in our databases, which provide access to scholarly journals, magazines and newspaper articles.  Databases are great resources for your research as they provide a wealth of current and historical scholarly material.  Many of the subscription databases are subject specific.  Using a subject specific database may provide you with the specific information you need and save you a great deal of time with your research.

4.  If the library does not have the material(s) and/or item(s) you need, you may place an ILL (Interlibrary Loan) request to obtain these materials from another library.  Because this process may take some time, please plan ahead and start your research early so if you need to use this option, you will have the time to receive the materials and use them for your assignment.

5.  Online resources.  Some web resources can be very valuable to your research and contain excellent scholarly content.  To obtain some of the best information via the Internet use websites which include the following:  .gov (government source), .edu (educational source).

6.  Organization.  A good way to keep all your resources together for easy access is to put them in a folder.  You can create a general folder on your computer or you can use the folder options provided via the databases.

7.  If you are having some trouble selecting a research topic or finding related information, please stop by the information desk and ask one of the librarians for assistance.  We would be happy to help.

Library Hours

Monday - Friday: 8 am - 11 pm
Saturday: 1 pm - 7 pm
Sunday: 2 pm - 11 pm

Don't Forget Your Research Toolbox

Pack your Research Toolbox and be prepared to start your research paper.  By having quick access to these materials you will be prepared to gather materials and information for your paper at almost anytime.

  • One or two flashdrives:  Great to take with you and store notes, etc.  Make sure you label your flashdrive with your name and phone number so if lost, it can be returned to you.
  • Paper:  To write notes if needed.
  • Pens, Pencils, Highlighters: Your essential writing tools.
  • Sticky Notes or Color Tabs: Helps you mark the the important information you may need to review later.
  • Your Student ID Card or Money for Copies.
  • Bottled water and a snack.
  • Cell phone and email addresses and phone numbers of class members and professors you may need to contact.
  • Folders to help keep things organized.
  • Copy of the assignment so you can refer to it if necessary.

How Do I Do It???