Steps to Successful Research Papers|
Choosing a topic--the first step to writing a research paper is deciding upon a topic. Keep the following points in mind:
Begin with general resources--Unless you are already quite familiar with your topic, reading an article in a general or specialized encyclopedia is a good way to begin research. It provides you with background information, suggests interesting questions and problems related to the topic that you can investigate, and important terms that can be used as keywords to search under. A variety of encyclopedias are shelved behind the reference desk on the first floor of Stapleton Library, and the online Encyclopedia Britannica is also available. You can ask the reference librarian to help you find them, at the desk, by phone at 724-357-3006.
Limiting your topic--After reviewing general sources you should think more about your topic. It is a good idea to pose your topic as a question to be answered or a problem to be solved. If it seems too broad consider limiting it is some way such as to a particular time period, place, or group of individuals. Write a list of two to four terms related to your topic which you think will be good keywords to use for searching.
Finding Specific Sources--Using the terms you have selected, search for a variety of library and internet resources that provide information on your topic. They should include:
Document your sources--good research is based upon reviewing the writing of others, but it is essential to acknowledge those sources both to add authority to your work and to give credit to other authors. Style guides are available for various disciplines to cite such sources appropriately and include MLA, APA , and guides to Citing Online Sources.
Remember that the librarians can help you at any step in the research process. These trained information professionals can be found at the Reference Desk at Stapleton Library most hours the library is opened, and can be contacted by phone 724-357-3006 or by email or chat.