1. Read Your Assignment
  2. Find a Topic
  3.  Get Background Information
  4. Refine Your Ideas
  5. Review your Requirements
  6.  Find Articles
  7. Find Books and Ebooks
  8. Cite Your Sources

North Carolina State University

5. Review Your Assignments

Review your assignment and consult with your instructor as needed.

Outline how you want to organize and present your research findings in your paper when you get to the writing stage.

6. Find Articles

In the Library Databases

  • Use AND between search terms to narrow your research (Include both terms)
  • Use OR between search terms to broaden your search (Included either term)

1. Read Your Assignment

What are the details of your assignment?

  •  What:
    • is required
    • is the size of the assignment
    • kinds of sources should you be using (books, websites, newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals)
    • is the focus of the paper
    • guidelines have my instructor given me on topic selection

2. Find a Topic

Brainstorm some ideas

  • Look through your syllabus, class notes, or textbook for  topics that interest you
  • Talk to your instructor, classmates and friends for ideas
  • Think about your major or your hobbies for ideas
  • Choose a topic that you are interested in
  • Be flexible. Research can be messy and require changes. It takes time

3. Get Background Information

After picking a topic, get to know more about that topic.

  • Gathering background information allows you to:
    • Become more familiar with the subject
    • Identify differing perspectives of the topic
    • Identify the experts, researchers, and scholars 
    •  Find out if this is an important/interesting topic
  • Narrow your topic to be more specific about your research
    • By time period
    • By location/ region
    • By population (race, ethnicity, gender, age group)
    • By source type
    • By methodology
  • Search topics in Google or a library database for suggestion
  • Use dictionaries and encyclopedias
    •  Encyclopedias may provide you with background information on topics of interest  

4. Refine Your Ideas

After you have selected a topic, begin work to create a possible research question or a draft thesis statement

  • Continue your background reading
  • Identify your main concepts 
  • For each main concept, come up with synonyms and related terms
  • Think of the who, what, when, where and why questions
  • Create a concept map (diagram of how the terms relate can be useful)

Chat with a Librarian

8. Cite Your Sources

  • Always give credit for the ideas, images, graphics, and charts that you will be using for your papers. Be copyright conscientious!
  • Cite your sources using the appropriate format for your class assignment
  • Many databases provide citation help
  • You may also chose to use a citation manager 
    • ​Zotero  and KnightCIte are two examples. 
  • For more information about citation styles, consult the library's Citation Style Guides.