Some students experience a little anxiety at the start of a big research project. They may get started late, not because of procrastination, but because they don't know where to start! These tips will help you take the first few steps. These are things you can do to give yourself more confidence and to help you get started right on time.
Preview the Topic
Your instructor will have rules about the types of sources you will be allowed to use in your search for information. Instructors don’t allow some sources because they are considered to be unreliable. Some instructors don’t allow students to use the internet at all, because they want students to use only books and scholarly journal articles. But that doesn't mean you can't use some internet sites as a preliminary step.
It is not unusual to embark on a research project on a topic that you know nothing about! If you are given a topic (instead of choosing one yourself), you will have to do some preliminary investigation just to get a basic understanding of your topic.
It is perfectly fine to use a variety of internet sources to get your head around a topic before you start the official research for your paper. Search sites like Wikipedia and About.com to get a preview of the subject.
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You may be required to visit a large public library or a college library to access some of the sources you’ll need. Librarians are usually very helpful and open to any questions you may have, so there’s no need to try to find everything for yourself.
Visit the library to become familiar with the reference desk, the periodical collections, the film collections, the microfiche machines, historical collections, or any other resource you might tap into during your search. Feel free to ask where to find these things or how to use them.
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Research Paper Topics
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Find a Model Article
It is a great idea to find an article that is written and published in the same field that you’re researching. If you’re writing a psychology paper, for example, you could find an article that has been published in a psychology periodical.
Read through this example to get a sense of the language that is used and the format and style of the article. Also observe the list of sources for that article to gain ideas about the types of sources you might use. If you’re writing a history paper about World War II, for example, you might see that the author has used personal interviews in his research. You could do the same.
Talk to Your Instructor
If you have any doubt about your instructor’s expectations, you should schedule an appointment with him or her to talk about the assignment. Make sure you know how the final paper should be submitted (paper or electronic version), exactly when the assignment is due, the expected format of the paper, what sources are acceptable and not acceptable, and how long the paper should be.