You've just been assigned a research paper that asks you develop a thesis statement on a topic of interest to you which is currently being discussed/debated in society and write 5-6 pages. Where do you start?
How do you get to the core of what you're being asked to do in your paper? Thoroughly reading your assignment is an important part of getting started so you understand what your end goal should be.
(Credit to the Gustavus Adolphus College Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library Do Research Guide for their insightful questions.)
Choosing a Topic
Whether your topic is about current events or needs to be within a certain subject area, exploring your interests and what’s being written can help you craft an idea:
In the video below, Jennie goes through the process of picking a topic and learns how to select one that's just right.
Locating Background Information
Like the foundation of a house, background information is an important support for starting your research by establishing facts and existing perspectives on your topic. Before you start building a paper, you should have an understanding of your topic, such as basic facts like dates and people, important data, and definitions of terms.
Collecting background information can help you:
Using Wikipedia for Research
Find Background Information - Entries and embedded links can be used to generate ideas and learn the terminology associated with your topic.
Generate Search Terms - Take a look at the embedded links, bolded words, or table of contents. They can help generate search terms to use for searching in library databases.
Look at the Bibliography - The bottom of the page should list the sources used to compile the entry. They can point you to other resources (sometimes scholarly) on the topic.
Cite to Wikipedia - In academic research, you usually never cite to an encyclopedia or other sources of background information.
Believe Everything - Because the content is user-created, anonymous, and does not have a mandatory review process, there is no guarantee that the information is accurate and credible.
Before you move on...
Remember, your research starts as you are picking your topic! This is because you need to learn about the key facts, perspectives, and history in order to develop your own perspective and thesis. You can adjust the specifics of your topic as you develop your question in Step 2. In addition, sources of background information may differ by discipline so if you are struggling to locate sources, consider your topic area and consult your professor or librarian for more help.