College of the Atlantic - Thorndike Library

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Getting Started on Your Research

Starting Your Research

Evaluate Your Assignment

What are the research requirements for your assignment? 

  • What kind of project is it?  An oral presentation, a poster, or a written assignment?
  • When is it due?
  • What sources are you required to use?  Books? Peer-reviewed journal articles?  Primary research?
  • How many of each source are you required to use?
  • How long does it need to be?  2 minutes? A 3-panel poster?  A 10 page paper?

 Is there a particular kind of paper you are being asked to write?  Consider the following.

 

Select Your Topic

Now that you have reviewed the requirements of the assignment, you are ready to select your topic.  Even when assigned a topic, you are frequently given the opportunity to select a particular aspect of the topic to research.  Since you will  be spending a lot of time on your research, choose one that interests you!

 

Need ideas?

Reference materials (encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc) in print and online can be good places to browse for ideas.  Here are some suggestions of places to look.

Trisha and Jane, your reference librarians, are always ready to meet and consult with you about ideas.

 

Formulate a Research Question

1.  Once you've got your idea for a topic, try stating it as a question.  This will help focus your topic and guide your research.

2.  Next, do some preliminary research to determine if there is enough information for you to meet the requirements of your paper. 

3.  You may find you need to either:

(a) broaden your question in order to find enough information

Example. Let's say you start with this research question, "What is the effect of recent fishing regulations on Bar Harbor fishermen?  After some preliminary research you may find there isn't enough information for you to write a 10-page paper.  One way you could broaden this topic would be to ask "What is the effect of recent fishing regulations on New England fishermen?"

(b) narrow your question in order to keep from being overwhelmed with too much information.

Example: Let's say you start with this research question, "How is global warming affecting communities throughout the United States?"  After some initial research you realize this topic is too broad, and you need to narrow it.  One way would be to ask "How is global warming affecting communities in the New England?"