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Research Process :: Step by Step


Choose a topic that interests you and holds your attention. The research will be more enjoyable!

Understanding your assignment

Make sure you understand your assignment and its requirements. 

Consider the following:

  • Have you been assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources? (e.g. scholarly articles, books, newspapers, etc.)
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?

When in doubt, consult with your instructor.

 Can’t think of a topic to research? 

  • Scan your textbook for broad topic ideas.
  • Review your class discussions, notes, and readings.
  • Peruse current magazines and newspapers to see what catches your eye.
  • Browse print and electronic encyclopedias.
  • Look at databases that feature articles on current events and controversial issues such as CQ Researcher and Points of View Reference Center.
  • Discuss potential topics with your instructor, a librarian, or a classmate.


Ask yourself the following questions to help you generate topic ideas:

  • Do you have a strong opinion on a current social or political controversy?
  • Did you read or see a news story recently that has interested you?
  • Do you have a personal issue, problem or interest that you would like to know more about?
  • Is there an aspect of one of your classes that you would like to learn more about?