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Research Fundamentals: Plan

A guide to print and online resources for starting your research.

Developing & Selecting your Research Question or Thesis

Choosing Your Topic 

  • Is the topic interesting to you? This may seem silly but writing about something is that interesting you will make the project more fun and engaging to you. 
  • Does the research topic fit the assignment? Check with your professor/instructor if you are unsure.  
  • Is there enough information on the topic? or is there to much? If a topic is too broad it may be hard to find information that is focused and relevant. If your topic is too narrow it may be hard to find any information at all. 
  • Research is a process. As you work to develop your thesis statement you may find you need to broader or narrow your topic. This is normal.

Exploring Your Topic 

  • Now that you have selected a research topic make a list keywords and/or phrases. 
  • Try writing your a question or statement that describes your topics. For example: 
    • Is it a good idea to legalize marijuana?
    • Wikipedia is an important research tool.
    • The bank bailouts didn't help the U.S. economy.
  • Use these keywords and phrases to explore ScholarOneSearch and the various databases here at Snell Library. 

More Strategies

I still can't decide on a topic!

Here are some more questions to ask yourself to help you get started. 

Do I want a broad overview of my topic?

Dictionaries and encyclopedias provide concise surveys of ideas, events, historical figures, and other topics.

Will my presentation be more effective if it includes photographs?

The Library provides access to the image database ARTstorVisit the Library's Digital Media Commons Studio to learn about other image resources and fair use of images. 

Do I need numbers - data, statistics, or polls - to back up my thesis?

The Library provides access to Data and Statistics and has a Social Science Statistics subject guide. Check out the statistics portal, Statista.

Do I need to read a scholarly article on my topic?  (What is a scholarly article?)

Scholar OneSearch  is a combined library catalog and article search tool, check Research Guides by Subject. for selected interdisciplinary databases, including Academic Search Complete and JSTOR

Do I need late breaking news on my topic?

We have Newspaper resources and the current news research subject page. 

Do I need a primary source - eyewitness account, original document? (What is a primary source?)

You may wish to visit the University Archives or consult a staff member at the Research Assistance Desk.

Will I show a DVD, streaming video, or video in my class presentation?  Will I create my own presentation?

Search Scholar OneSearch, with the library catalog option for media. Consult Digital Media Commons Studio staff about designing an original media project.

How do I choose a research topic?

How do I develop a research question?

Research Tools

Review question: What research materials will help you complete your assignment or answer the questions you've posed?