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The Research Process: Step By Step

The following guide can help you navigate the research process using resources at the FIU Libraries

REVIEW & DEFINE

I have to give a speech, do a project, present a paper, write a report or write a term paper, now what...?

Review your class assignment, looking for keywords or terms that can help you define your topic. Use these keywords to search the library catalogs and databases. Also note what types of sources your instructor requires, for example: book chapters, newspaper articles, magazine articles, or peer-reviewed journal articles.

If you have the freedom to choose your own topic, be sure to choose a topic that will sustain your interest. Additionally, the topic should be one you can research sufficiently in the time allowed, research using the tools and resources readily available to you, read about in a language you read well, and that your professor deems suitable for your assignment.

Start with a broad topic area (this might already be decided for you as a requirement of a course) and narrow this down to select a specific topic for your paper so that you don’t waste time wading through too much information.

Deciding on a topic you'd like to write about and defining the parameters of your research is one of the most challenging and important aspects of the research process. If you need more help with this step, consult your professor or look for ideas in the research guides which have been prepared by the subject librarians.

Tips: before you start your research

Research doesn't have to be hard, but it does take time.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Read your assignment thoroughly and carefully.
    • What is your professor asking you to do? What types of resources do you need to find? How many? What citation style are you required to use? When is your assignment due?
  2. Choose your topic.
  3. Brainstorm.
    • What do you know about your topic?
    • What does your audience know?
    • What do you need to show/prove to get your point across?
  4. Write a list of key words.
    • The more you know about your subject, the easier it is to find information to support your argument.
    • Create a list of all the words commonly used to describe your topic. This will make it easier to modify your search terms while conducting library research.
  5. Pick your source(s) and start searching.
    • Do you need to find scholarly articles? Books? News? Images? The library has resources to help you locate whatever you need.
    • Need help choosing the best database or resource? ASK US!

help SELECTING TOPICS

Need help coming up with a topic?  
Use these resources to help generate some ideas: