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1: Prepare

Back to Research Process Guide

Choose your topic.

Places to get topic ideas:
  • Your textbook: Scan through relevant sections.
  • Current events: Check out news sources to see what people are talking about.
  • Encyclopedias: Skim through sections on your subject area.
  • Talk to people: Ask your instructor, a librarian, or classmates what they think about your subject.

Develop research questions.

Write down what you already know or don't know about the topic, and then use that information to develop questions to answer in your paper.

Key Terms:

Make a list of key terminology for your topic.
  • Scan encyclopedia and wikipedia articles
  • Look through your textbook
  • Talk with friends or a librarian about key terms for your topic

Think about the best place to find the information you need:

 Type of information  
 Where to find it

 News
  • newspapers
  • websites from news organizations
  • databases
 Information about a specific organization or company
  •  websites
  • company profiles

 Research article
  •  scholarly journals
 
Personal accounts
  •  magazines
  • news articles
  • blogs

 Statistics
  •  websites
  • scholarly journals
 History, overview, definitions (scholarly)
  •  subject encyclopedias
  • books
 History, overview (popular)
  •  magazines
  • books

Adapted from Ryan Library Research Guide, Point Loma Univ.

Finding too much information? Not finding enough information?

Use boolean operators.
 AND: All words must appear in each result.   social networking AND college student    
Decreases results.
 OR: either word can appear in a result.
social networking OR Facebook    
Increases results.
NOT: exclude undesired termssocial networking NOT software
Decreases results.

Use truncation symbols.
Cut off a word to its root and use a symbol (usually *) to automatically retrieve all ends of this word.
Example: Network* brings back networks, networking
BUT Net* brings back netiquette, netscape, Netflix, etc.

Use alternative, narrower, or broader keywords.
Use a thesaurus for synonyms.
Brainstorm narrower or broader terms with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend.

Use this Thinking Tool worksheet to help you with this first step in the research process.