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SUNY Jefferson

ENG 101 M. De Jesus-Reyes

Getting Started with Research

  1. Select a topic within the parameters set by the assignment.
  2. Select a topic of personal interest to you. The research and writing process will be more enjoyable if you are writing about something that you find interesting.
  3. There are a number of ways you can get ideas for a topic.  Try some of the following
    • Surfing the web, specifically news websites will often generate some topic ideas.  Once you have a general topic in mind, then use it as a keyword and searching for it in Wikipedia.  This is a fast and easy way to find information about a general topic and determine whether it is something you are interested in researching further.
    • Talk to your instructor, a librarian, a friend, co-worker or family member about your research project. Ask them what they think would be an interesting topic to research.  A lot of useful brainstorming can be had through conversation. 
    • If you already have some experience or comfort level with library databases then you may want to try browsing some of our databases, such as Opposing View Points or CQ Researcher.
    • If you are more comfortable with print material like magazines, newspapers and books, then you can also look for a topic by browsing our print collection. 

*Note, that you won't necessarily be citing these resources in your final research project. You're just using them to brainstorm ideas.

Explore Open-ended Questions to find a research question:

  • Ask open-ended "how" and why" questions about your general topic.
  • Consider the "so what" of your topic.  Why  does this topic matter to you? Why should it matter to others?
  • Reflect on the questions you have considered.  Identify one or two questions you find engaging and which could be explored further through research. 


Example Research Questions:

Ok: Are video games bad for kids?

Better: Does playing violent video games lead to more aggressive behavior in children?


Ok: What is the effect on the environment from global warming?

Better: How is glacial melting affecting penquins in Antartica? 

To get started with research, you will need some good keywords.  The better your keywords, the better your results will be in a database.  You are probably already familiar with using keywords when you search for information on Google. But using a library database or online catalog can be very different from searching Google, and you may need to be more selective with keywords.   


Presearch time: 

Presearch is commonly used to describe the preparation work you do before you even start doing your real research.   It's during this phase that you will determine what keywords are best to use when searching a database.  Note, you can have several different combinations of keywords and you'll find yourself identify new keywords to use as you go through the research process. 

1)  Start with your main idea or topic. Choose something general and something that you are interested in. 

2)  Background research:  Do a search online or find a Wikipedia article on your topic.  Although you shouldn't cite a Wikipedia article or rely on it as your only source, it can be a very useful tool for getting background information on your topic.  Another way would be to use a reference book or conduct a search in one of our reference databases

3) Another method for coming up with keywords is to use the search results from a database.  Most library resources like databases will include related subject terms in the record for an article, or even provide a handy list on the search result page. 

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