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How Do I Get Started?

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Select a topic that interests you

Selecting a topic can be difficult. Is it too broad a topic? Is it too narrow a topic? Will I find enough information on this topic? Start out by selecting a topic that you are interested in or are curious to learn about further. You are going to be spending quite a bit of time on this topic, so make sure that you find it interesting.

To browse for ideas on possible research paper topics, take a look at 10,000 Ideas for Term Papers, Taking Sides, Information Plus, Opposing Viewpoints, and the CQ Researcher at the Reference Table.

Read through background information

Taking the time to read about your topic in a specialized encyclopedia may save you time in the research process. You can decide whether the topic is interesting enough to pursue and you can refine your topic before you dive into the research.

The specialized encyclopedias in the reference collection are filled with information to help you focus your topic. These books are a good place to start your research and in only a few pages, you can find an overview or a quick summary on your basic topic. Specialized encyclopedias can also familiarize you with the vocabulary for your topic. Many of these encyclopedias will include bibliographies at the end of the article with a list of references to other works you may find useful in your research.

Start identifying the main concepts and vocabulary

Once you have selected your topic, you will need to identify the main concepts and keywords that describe what you will be researching.

For example:
The research statement "Does stress lead to an increase in school violence?" has two main concepts

  1. stress
  2. school violence

Some keywords related to the main concepts might be:

  1. stress or post-traumatic stress disorder or antisocial personality disorders or interpersonal relations or peer pressure
  2. school violence or school shooting or bullying

Now you are able to combine your keywords with your main concepts to refine your topic and continue the research process. For further assistance or explanation, please see a reference librarian.

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