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Research & Writing   Tags: college writing, english composition, essay writing  

Last Updated: May 7, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Research & Writing

Information in this guide will help students work through the steps and process of completing a research paper.                        

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Research & Writing

Research is a little like trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle.  When perusing databases, journals, books, and various other sources, take note of the names of people who are often quoted; scholars who are doing research on your topic and the universities with which they are affiliated; spokespersons, and influential figures; and then search for articles that are written by them.  Check the bibliographies and footnotes in the articles you come across, as well as suggestions for further reading.  Do these sources seem relevant or pertain to your topic?  If so, does the library have these materials?  Can you locate them through other databases or through interlibrary loan (interlibrary loan is a service by which you can receive books and photocopies of documents that are owned by another library). 

Research Plan

Choose a topic for your research and identify specifically what you plan to research and write about.

Reread your class assignment for understanding.  Make sure your topic is relevant to your assignment.

Pre-research your topic.  It's important to have a good overview and understanding of your topic.  Google your topic to see in general how often the topic is discussed, and to locate background information.  Use an encyclopedia to find historical information and how your topic relates to other disciplines. 

Refine your topic.  Once you have an overview of your topic, write down everything you already know, have thoughts or ideas about, or want to know about your topic.  Think of all the ways you can verbalize your topic.  Then, begin to narrow your topic by identifying the key concepts, themes, questions, or issues, and identifying the keywords (the most important and relevant words).  Do your terms have any synonyms? 

Formulate your research statement.

Begin your research.

Evaluate your search results.  Evaluate all information gathered for appropriateness to your research question.  Select only the credible sources.


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    Patty Clark and Stephen Leist (Research Librarians), Sue Erickson (Library Director)
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