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First Year Experience: UNIV 1152

This guide is designed to introduce new students to RSU Libraries and the research process. The required library module for UNIV 1152 is also housed here.

Identify your topic

Depending on your assignment, you may be given a research topic or you may get to choose your own. If you're choosing your own and need an idea, here are some places to look for topic inspiration:

  • Class discussions
  • Encyclopedias 
  • Assigned readings
  • Personal interests
  • Current events 
  • Browse journals in the field

Once you've selected an idea for your research topic, now you need to Clarify some information. This is the brainstorming step of the research cycle. Think about the following questions:

  1. What do you already know?
  2. What do you need to know?
  3. What kind of information do you need? For example, do you need data and statistics, scientific studies, personal accounts, etc. 
  4. Who is the information for? Who is your audience?
  5. What are some basic keywords for your topic?

Once you have decided on your topic idea and clarified what you know, you most likely need to narrow your topic. If you try to write a paper about one broad topic, it's going to be hard to find exactly what you need. One way to narrow down a broad topic is to add a limiter. Can you limit your topic to a specific:

  • Geographical area - What sources of pollution affect the X County water supply?
  • Time frame - How has online education changed in the last 5 years?
  • Discipline - How do green initiatives affect business practices?
  • Population group - How are children affected by advertising?

After you've clarified what you're searching for and made a list of search terms, it's time to start background research! At this point you aren't trying to do in-depth research, but instead find general information and find additional key words or fill any gaps in your knowledge. You may still have questions about your topic or haven't refined your thesis yet, but that's okay! As you search you may find more information and edit your topic or focus. 

Wikipedia is a great place to start reading up on your topic, however you NEVER want to use information directly from Wikipedia! Instead, look at the bottom of a Wikipedia article and look at the sources referenced. There may be a reliable source that you can read for yourself!