When it comes to research assignments the hardest part is just getting started. (Prefer video? We've got a video of this post on YouTube.)
What's the Assignment?
The first thing you should do is read the assignment. Then, read it again.
The better you understand the requirements the more guidelines you will have to help shape your research and writing.
Before you dive in to research, take some time to brainstorm. This can help you identify a topic and create a thesis. When brainstorming you want to consider:
Once you have a general idea of what you want to look for, you can start conducting background research. Background information provides you with the important context of an idea or topic that helps you better understand your area of research.
Narrow Your Topic
Now that you have an idea of your topic, it's time to pick what you want to focus on.
How your narrow down your topic will depend on what you are writing about and the assignment requirements. A shorter paper should be narrow than a longer paper.
When narrowing your topic consider:
Try to describe Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why about your topic to determine specifics. The more of these you incorporate the more specific your research question will be.
Write a Working Thesis
A thesis is a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved. Essentially, a thesis is a question you are trying to answer or an argument you are trying to make. More specifically, a thesis is a sentence or a few sentences that express the main idea, argument, or viewpoint of your assignment.
When it comes to getting started on your paper, it can help to have a general idea for your thesis before you start researching. This is called a "working thesis." It is the general idea, argument, or viewpoint you use to help shape your paper.
What Do You Need?
It can be helpful to create a list of what you need to find before you start your paper. Items on that list could include:
Start Your Research
Once you have your assignment parameters, topic, and working thesis, you can get started on your research. There is a lot of information available in the world – but you can't go wrong in starting with library resources!
Exactly where you look depends on your assignment requirements and topic. For example, you wouldn't look for scientific research on Facebook. You might, however, use Facebook to find examples of how people use social media.
We know this can be overwhelming, which is why the library is here to help you find sources like books, articles, and online material.
When Do I Start Writing?
As you research, you will refine and strengthen your thesis which will shape your final paper. Sometimes, it can be hard to determine when to stop researching and start writing.
Before you start writing consider:
As you search and read, you may eventually realize you are coming across the same concept again and again or are seeing references to sources that you have already found. That might suggest that you have already located the most important and relevant information.
As a general rule of thumb, it's useful to find at least 3 to 4 sources per page of paper. So, for a 5 page paper, you want to start with 15 to 20 sources. This is because it is easier to cut out sources than to add sources at the last minute.
Getting started on your research is the hardest part. We hope these tips make it just a little bit easier.
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