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The Research Process

A guide to help develop skills in how to develop a research question and find resources to support your thesis.

Narrow a Topic

The first step to research is to understand the assignment. Has the topic been defined by the professor or do you need to choose a topic?

If the topic is assigned, your first task will be to extract the key concepts to search so you can focus on the search strategy.

Choosing your own topic requires more work. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a topic you are interested in and have some knowledge about.
    • A topic that is completely foreign to you or that you don't care about will be time-consuming and feel like a chore.
  • Make your topic a manageable one.  If the topic is too broad or covers too many concepts, you will find too much information and focus will be lost. 
  • Generate a list of topics and subtopics to narrow down your focus. 
    • Example: Education > Common Core > Does the Common Core result in better prepared students?
  • Ensure that the topic is relevant to the course or assignment. 
  • Gather background information.  
    • Use reference sources such as reference books. They are a good starting point and introduce you to major works and key issues/authors in a particular area.
    • Use dictionaries and encyclopedias. They give general information and provide definitions for terms and concepts to help you formulate your question.
  • Consider your audience: Who would be interested in the issue?

Additional Resources

Refer to the resources below for more in-depth information