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Conducting Research

When beginning a research project, it is easy to become overwhelmed!

There are many considerations to contemplate like: What is the teacher requiring? Where to start? How to  choose a topic? How to write a thesis statement?  Where do I find the information I need? What are sources and how do they differ?  What is "citing"? How to structure a paper?


This web page is designed to help answer these questions and more. By following the direction contained here, students will be able to breakdown and chunk the big task of "research" into small, linear and  manageable steps. After quailing fear of the research monster, students often develop a skill set that makes research rewarding and for some, even fun.

Why Research?

The general goal of any research project is to teach you how to:

  • Brainstorm and use a self-directed study techniques on a topic you are interested in
  • Think critically and make intelligent observations to support, prove, or disprove an idea
  • That you can develop and organize your ideas in the form of thesis and support.
  • Collaborate and apply and integrate source material from others who have made discoveries
  • Develop academic integrity by documenting sources according to style guides for citation
  • Creatively present your ideas logically and correctly

Know What Your Instructor Expects

  • Listen and take notes as the instructor explains the project.
  • Read the instructor's directions and or handouts thoroughly.  
  • Read the grading rubric in advance.
  • Consult the instructor's web page for clarification.
  • Ask your instructor questions and be ready to show evidence that you have completed all of the above-mentioned strategies.

Nailing Down a Topic

When we are given a choice of topics to write on, or are asked to come up with our own topic ideas, we must always make choices that appeal to our own interests, curiosity, and current knowledge. If you decide to write an essay on art, for instance, it is obvious that you should make that decision because you are interested in the subject, know something about it already, and/or would like to know more about it. However, because we rarely write solely for our own satisfaction, we must consider matters other than our own interests as we choose topics.
Most topic searches start with a subject. For example, you're interested in writing about languages, and even more specifically, foreign languages. This is a general subject. Within a general subject, you'll find millions of topics. Not only about every foreign language ever spoken, but also about hundreds of issues affecting foreign languages. But keep in mind that a subject search is always a good place to start.

Who is your audience?

Your purpose helps you to narrow a topic since it demands particular approaches to a general subject. You need to ask yourself, "Who will be reading my research paper?"  One the most important roles a topic plays is impacting an audience. Having a clear idea of the audience to whom you are writing will help you to determine an appropriate topic and how to present it.

What is your purpose for writing?

Sometimes your ways of generating topics will depend on the type of research assignment you have been given. Here are some ideas of strategies you can use in finding topics for some of the more common types of writing assignments:


  • Essays evaluating, responding to or interpreting texts (Expository)
  • Essays in which you take a position on an issue (Argument)
  • Essays in which you are giving information on a topic (Informative)
  • Essays in which you propose solutions to problems (Persuasive)