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Information Literacy and the Research Process: Prepare For Research

This guide was created to address the information literacy general education outcome.

Introduction

Find a Topic

Overview

How do you get started with your research assignment?

The writing process can sometimes seem daunting and complex, but if you break it down into steps and give yourself enough time, you don't have to rely on "desperation" to get you through! The following guide will help outline the steps to help you successfully complete your writing assignments at USF.

Researching a topic is not always a straightforward process. You might start with a topic and find that it is too broad for your paper. Once you decide on a topic, ask yourself some questions about your topic to begin narrowing it down. Try to make your topic specific and interesting. As you continue your research you may discover an interesting aspect of your topic that you want to learn more about. In the next steps you will learn more about ways you can select and narrow a topic for your research project.

Step 1

How To Choose a Topic

Begin by asking general questions about the subject of your course. What topics from the textbook or lecture have been interesting to you? What would you like to know more about?

Write down your ideas along with any questions that might come up. Your goal is to find a topic that is not too broad. For example, "Sharks" is a very big topic. A more specific topic like "Shark Species of the Caribbean" will help make the amount of research you do more manageable.

If you are having trouble selecting a topic, use one of the methods below to get you started:

  • Look through the textbook for your class
  • Look over your notes from class
  • Try mind-mapping. See the video below for help.

Step 2

How To Narrow Your Topic

By now you may have a topic in mind. Ask these questions about your topic. What do you already know about your topic? What do you need to know? It may be helpful to make a diagram or chart to show what you already know and what you need to find out.

Next steps

  • Do a quick Internet search
  • Look up the topic in a reference book (e.g. encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas, etc...)
  • What do you believe about your topic? For example, do you believe the risks of concussions are too high for young children to play contact sports such as football, or do you believe proper precautions can be taken to protect them from the permanent damage such injuries may cause? In the course of your research, you may discover information that will make you change your own opinion! 
  • Make a list of keywords related to this topic. These will be helpful when finding research.
  • Can you think of many keywords? If not, is your topic too specific?
 ​

Step 3

Tips on Choosing a Topic

  •   Brainstorm potential topics.
  •   Narrow your topic. Be specific!
  •   ​Pre-search your topic. What can you find? 
  •   Make a list of keywords for your search.
  •   Narrow some more.
  •   Start thinking about the resources you will use.
  •   Start to think about a thesis.

Step 4

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is one method of brainstorming. It's especially helpful if you are a very visual person because it helps illustrate the relationship between topics. Quick start: Draw or write a general topic in the middle of a sheet of paper. Then draw links or "map" related concepts off of your beginning topic. Watch the video for a more in-depth demonstration about how to create a mind map.

 

Ask A Librarian

Ask A Librarian

If you have any questions about the Research Process, using library resources, or completing these modules, please contact one of our Reference Librarians via the contact information below. You can always call a librarian at 260.638.VANN (8266). Librarians are also available through text at 260.222.5054.

 

Reference Librarians

Kerri Killion-Mueller, MLIS

Reference & Instruction Librarian

260.399.7700, ext. 6046

kkillion@sf.edu

Amber Pavlina, MA, MLS

Reference & Instruction Librarian

260.399.7700, ext. 6067

apavlina@sf.edu

 

 

 
 

Contact

Lee & Jim Vann Library

Pope John Paul II Center

First and Second Floor

Room 101 & 201

260.399.8060