These six steps outline a simple and effective strategy for finding information for a research paper and documenting the sources you find.
IDENTIFY YOUR TOPIC
State your topic as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about the use of alcoholic beverages by college students, you might pose the question, "What effect does the use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?" Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question. Bubbl.us can help you brainstorm by creating a mindmap.
Choose a topic, then narrow or broaden the topic as needed
Your topic should be broad enough to allow you to find sufficient information, but narrow enough to answer a specific question.
A broad topic is likely to be unmanageable. If you are finding too much information about a topic, you may need to consider making the topic more specific.
Tips for Narrowing a Broad Topic:
A narrow topic may be too specific to return useful research results. Perhaps sufficient research has not been done on a particular aspect of the topic.
If you can state your topic as a specific question, your topic is probably just right.
State your topic as a question
This helps keep your research focused on the specific topic at hand.
For example, if you are interested in finding out about the use of alcoholic beverages by college students, you might pose the question, "What effect does the use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?"
Broad Topic: Alcohol Use
Research Question: What effect does the use of alchololic beverages have on the health of college students?
Broad Topic: William Shakespeare
Research Question: How has Shakespearean drama been adapted for the 20th century film medium?
Broad Topic: Endangered Species
Research Question: What is currently being done to help conserve the endangered Giant Panda population?
Identify keywords in research question
Before you begin searching, you will need to idenify the most important words in your research question.
Research question: What effect does the use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?
Keywords: alcoholic beverages, health, college students
Related words: Alcoholic beverages - alcohol, beer, liquor, adult beverage
Health - well-being, welfare, condition
College students: college student, university student
Research question: How has Shakespearean drama been adapted for the 20th century film medium?
Keywords: Shakespearean, adapted, film
Related words: Shakespearean - Shakespeare, William Shakespeare
20th century - 1900's, modern, contemporary, current
Film - movie, motion picture, cinema
Research question: What is currently being done to help conserve the endangered Giant Panda population?
Keywords: conserve, Giant Panda
Related words: Conserve - conservation, preservation, protection
Giant Panda - panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca
Credo Topic Pages are a great place to begin your research. Topic Pages include reference resources for a broad overview of a topic, as well as links to relevant articles from library databases for more specific research.
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This video, by EasyBib, explains the first state in the inquiry-based learning process: connect. Viewers will learn how to use things they have already learned and experienced to think of new research questions.