If you are writing a research paper and are unsure how to get started, try following the steps below. Always remember that the friendly librarians of the CCU Library are available to help you, so feel free to consult with a librarian about any part of your research project.
1. Formulate a Research Question.
A good research project starts with a clearly-worded, well-defined research question. First, think about a topic that is: 1) relevant to the class you're taking and 2) interesting enough to you that you will want to spend time researching it. Once you have a general topic in mind, formulate a specific research question within that topic.
2. Get a Working Knowledge of Your Topic.
As you begin researching your topic, you need some general information. Find one or more reference articles on your topic. You can find reference articles in the CCU Library's online reference databases, such as Encyclopedia Britannica, Worldbook, and Oxford Reference Online. You can also search the library's catalog for relevant print reference materials, such as encyclopedias or dictionaries. Not only will reference articles help you gain a foundational understanding of your topic, they will also provide bibliographies that will list books, articles, and/or web sites that may serve as good research sources for your topic.
3. Gather Good Research Sources.
First, you may try searching the library's all-in-one discovery search tool called EBSCO Discovery Service. EDS will search for relevant books, articles, and other sources on your topic by simultaneously searching the CCU Library's catalog, the OhioLINK catalog, and the library's collection of online databases. You may also directly search the CCU Library catalog and the OhioLINK library catalog for relevant books on your topic. You may also directly search any of the library's databases for journal and magazine articles on your topic. For example, Academic Search Complete provides access to articles from thousands of periodicals in a wide range of subject areas. Depending upon the nature of your research, searching a subject-specific database, such as ATLA Religion Database, Business Source Complete, PsycINFO, or Education Research Complete can also be useful.
4. Take Notes from Your Sources.
As you select good sources on your topic, begin taking careful notes. As much as possible, try to summarize in your own words rather than simply copying information from your sources. As you take notes, make sure you document your sources.
5. Formulate a Thesis Statement.
As you conduct your research, formulate a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a one-sentence answer to your research question. The thesis statement guides the process of writing your research paper, because it serves as the main theme of your paper. Your entire paper should be focused on explaining and defending your thesis statement.
6. Create a Preliminary Outline.
As you compile notes from your sources, write an outline to help organize them. The main points of the outline should serve to explain and support your thesis statement. This outline will provide a plan for writing your paper. Your outline will help you select which pieces of information from your notes to include in your paper. Try numbering the main points of your outline, and then use the assigned numbers to label each section of your notes so that you will know which sections of your notes to include within each section of your paper.
***If you need assistance with writing your research paper, you can request assistance from CCU's academic support office.
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