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INRW 0399 SO: Starting Your Research

Help with your research paper

Research Tips

Once you have chosen your topic, the next step is to begin collecting information you can use to support your writing. Your instructor will tell you how many sources you are required to use for each essay. Here are a few steps you can take that will make this research process easier.

  • Know something about your topic. This sounds like a no-brainer but it will help in several ways - it can help you choose search terms (unique words for the topic) that can be used for searching, it will also help you evaluate the reliability of the information you find with your search.
  • Narrow down your topic. A broad topic is always more difficult to research than a specific one. A search like  "global warming" will get you thousands of search results, so you will spend a lot of time wading through those results to find what you need. A search like "global warming" and solutions will find fewer results and they will be more specific to your topic.
  • Investigate different resources. You will miss out on lots of information if you limit yourself to using resources you can find online - whether databases or internet. The older your topic is, the more useful you will find books for your research. Books are generally more thoroughly researched and will give you more in-depth information than articles found in databases.
  • Check your sources with your instructor. If you are not sure if the sources you are using are acceptable, contact your instructor during their office hours and ask that they take a look at what you have found thus far. If you are heading down the wrong road this can save you many hours of redoing your research!
  • Ask a Librarian! Each TCC Library has professional researchers (librarians) available in-person and online to help students with the research process. They can help you focus your research, sometimes suggest keywords to use for your topic, and guide you to the best resources available. To ask for help online, send an email to: ask.librarian@tccd.edu.

Internet or Databases?

The Internet is good for a lot of searches and source types.  For example, if you need very current information or news and commentary, Web searching is a good strategy.

Databases are special -- they are collections of information (usually articles from magazines and scholarly sources) made available to subscribers.  Databases are very valuable because they contain and maintain specific collections, and are relatively easy to search.  We use the Web to access Database collections, but articles accessed are not considered "online" or "web" sources in the same way that a Wikipedia entry is.