This guide is designed to help you begin working on a major research paper or assignment.
Follow the tabs in order to complete the lesson. If you are reviewing the information for a second, third, or fourth time, feel free to click around to the for a specific reminder.
Before You Start: About This Module
This learning module will help you find good sources of information when you do your research. By the time you have completed it, you will:
- Recognize the importance of brainstorming for, and having a selection of, search terms.
- Be able to use a combination of scholarly and non-scholarly sources to narrow and define a research topic.
- Know some tips and tricks that will make researching in the library's databases easier, faster, and more productive.
- Know what the TRAP method is.
- Know how to use the step-by-step TRAP method to evaluate a source for timeliness, relevance, authority, and purpose.
- Identify the reasons for citation in the academic setting.
- Be able to reach out to a librarian for help, and understand when that might be appropriate.
It should take you about 30 minutes to complete from start to finish. That may seem like a long time, but this module is meant to stand in for an in-person library research session.
Choosing a Topic
Choosing a topic to write about can be tricky. You should always keep three things in mind:
1) Previous Knowledge-- Is this a topic you already know something about? It is acceptable if the answer is "no," but in that case, you will need to do more basic searching to understand your topic fully.
2) Course Content-- Does this topic reflect an idea that you are learning about in the course you're writing for? If it doesn't directly relate, is there an angle you could take that would?
3) Personal experience or interest-- Is this a topic that will keep your interest long enough for you to write an effective paper? If you're not interested in writing it, it won't be that interesting to read.
Also, remember to think about multiple facets and angles for your topic. If your paper is meant to be argumentative- is there an argument to prove here? In other words, are there two or more sides to the issue?
Finding the Right Search Terms
Having a list of search terms to use is an important part of your research. When you search a database, or even the open web, well-developed search terms are necessary to fully understanding and exploring your topic. To find out more about how to think through generating a list of potential search terms, please watch the video or read the transcript below.