I've been assigned a research essay--where should I start?

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Talking to a librarian is a great way to start. You can either drop by the Ask Us desk during reference hours, or you can make an appointment with the librarian for your class

Here are some general tips:

  1. Your professor may have specific requirements for the kinds of sources you can use, so make sure you follow the guidelines in your assignment.
  2. As you research, make sure you keep track of your sources and where they came from, so you don't risk committing plagiarism.
  3. Starting with the search boxes on the Library homepage is a good place to start if you have a general topic. Use the Encyclopedias/Handbooks tab to find an academic encyclopedia article to give you an overview of the important concepts, people, places, and events pertaining to your topic: 
  4. Think about what you really want to find out with your research--writing it out as a research question can help you narrow down your search.
  5. Then jot down some keywords that you can use to search for more specified information about your topic. For instance, if your research question is, "Does playing violent video games make people act violent?" your search keywords might be: violent   video games   behavior
  6. Then click on the Articles & Journals tab to try Multisearch, a search engine for about a hundred of the library's databases, to find articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers, along with books and videos, about your research question. 
  7. Or, if your research essay is for a class other than English 4 or 5, see what databases and resources are recommended on the Subject Guide for your class; for instance, Psychology or History. These Subject Guides are curated pages made by librarians with links to the databases and books we think are most likely to be helpful for your topic.

Here are some short videos to explain these steps a little more:


The Research Process