When you have a research assignment, it is tempting to jump into finding citations for your paper. Your research will be easier and more effective if you plan and search in phases.
The first step is understanding how sources are expected to be used in your assignment. Closely read the assignment and highlight or take notes. Use the assignment to answer these questions:
For some assignments, you can choose your own topic. When choosing, pick something you're interested in that you want to spend time learning about.
Exploratory research helps you learn about the topics and conversations within an area of research so you can choose one aspect to focus your paper.
You may not be able to identify the exact topic of your paper before starting your research. The sources you find and the themes you discover will help to shape your paper. If you’re unsure how ideas are connected or what to look for, concept maps can help you visualize subtopics.
Scope your topic. Your topic should be specific enough that you can cover the topic fully and with sufficient detail but broad enough that you can find enough information.
Developing your research question is part of the process of scoping your research. Your research question should answer WHY or HOW. Fill in the blanks for your assignment:
A good research question should:
Some assignments may already specify a research question. If in doubt, clarify with your professor whether you should further refine the given topic or research question.