So, it’s time to start working on that first research assignment. You’ve got your tea or coffee in hand, you’re snuggled up in a cosy chair – it’s go time. But then you realize you’re not really, fully sure where to begin. Maybe you’re wondering where you need to look for the right information, or what kind of databases you should use. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry! Your Brescia librarians have created this quick guide to get you started.
How to start your project and become a Clever Researcher (aka, the whole point of this blog):
- Read your assignment instructions!
- Read your assignment instructions again, this time making a list of what you’re being asked to do. If you have questions about your assignment or what you’re supposed to do, ask your prof at this point.
- Choose your topic (if applicable). Make sure it’s appropriate for the length of your assignment (see our blog post on Narrowing Your Topic for help with this!)
- Make a research plan by “Presearching” (many parts of this step have links to other posts on our blog).
- Make a list of what questions you have. This list will grow beyond the ones from your assignment instructions the further you get in the research process. At the beginning your main question might be “what is my topic all about?”, while later it might become “has anyone else ever researched this awesome point I’m trying to make?”
- Know where to find the answers to these questions: choosing the right kind of resource for a specific kind of information is very difficult. If you don’t know, don’t worry: this is when to ask a librarian. My best advice is: journal articles are not the answer to everything. Using them is a good idea, but you’ll likely get the best information by looking at a wide variety of resources, including academic encyclopedias, books, and reports.
- Develop a list of keywords you can use for your research. These will help you with searching Summon, databases, and the library catalogue. Plus, the library has a whole list of research guides for all of Brescia’s main subjects! You can check our Research Guides for a list of popular keywords and phrases to search for the best results.
- Organize your research somehow – you can write it down, print it off, colour code, anything – just don’t try to remember what you’ve done. Research takes a long time and will be a multi-stage process, so it’s very difficult to remember every search.
- Start researching. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in this stage, as you will have to repeat Step 4 each time you have a new research question.
- Evaluate the research you’ve found: do your results answer your question? Are they credible and appropriate for a university-level assignment? Can you stop researching and move on?
- Ask for help when you need it: above all, don’t waste hours of your life by struggling over any step in this list. Remember that you can ask your professor, the library staff, or a writing instructor for tips and suggestions along the way.
Note: This blog post was updated from a prior post on starting research projects, developed by Heather Campbell.