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Goal: Preparing for the assignment and getting ready to choose a topic.

Consider the process you'll use - The paper is your final product, but a research paper involves an extensive process before you can generate the product. If you focus too quickly on the end product, you may miss some of the important research steps and find yourself writing a paper without enough understanding of the topic to do an A+ ob. !rowse over the rest of the steps suggested in this manual to get an idea of the process and think about how you"ll approach each step. #tart a ournal or notebook and begin otting notes about not only $what$ you plan to do but also $how$ you plan to do it. Set your deadlines for each step of the assignment - Ideally, you will have at least four weeks from the date it"s assigned to complete a research paper of % or & pages '(,))) to (,*)) words+. #horter papers requiring fairly simple research ', or * pages - .,*)) words+ may not require four weeks" $lead time,$ while a .* page or longer paper might be a semester-long pro ect. Think about possible topics - The word $topic$ is used variably by many teachers of writing and research to mean anything from the very general $sub ect matter$ to the very specific $thesis statement.$ In this manual, the term topic is broadly defined, while focus means a narrower perspective on the topic, and thesis statement is the main point of your paper, which cannot be determined until after research and analysis is complete. Info Search - browse, read, relax - #tart by thumbing through the textbooks or course pack for the class in which your paper was assigned. !rowse the table of contents, chapter headings and subheadings, to get an overview of the sub ect matter. /isit your library and browse in the catalog and reference room to find out what sources are held by the library which may relate to your class. !rowse some of the sub ectindexed sources on the internet with the same purpose. Relate your prior experience and learning - The process of successful research and writing involves building on what you know. 0ou don"t need to know a lot about a sub ect in order to use it as your topic, but choosing one you"re totally unfamiliar with could be a mistake. It may take so much time and effort to become informed about the sub ect that you don"t really have time to get into the depth required by your assignment. ot down your !uestions and ideas about possible topics - 1se your notebook to starting recording questions which interest you or ideas for possible topics. If you"re researching a paper for a ()th century American history class, write down questions you wonder about2 3hy did the stock market crash in .4(45 3ho was the worst ()th century American 6resident5 7id the 8igarette #moking 9an from :-;iles really kill <;=5 0ou"ll end up with a list of ideas and musings, some of which are obviously ridiculous and not reasonable topics for your paper, but don"t worry about that at this point. Think about things which interest you and which build upon some experience or knowledge you have or build upon things you"re presently learning in class. "rainstorm, alone and with others - Toss ideas around in your mind. !ounce ideas off of your classmates, your teacher or 'heaven forbid+ your siblings and parents, to get their reactions and ideas. 9any times another person will have a fresh perspective you might not have thought of, or something they say will trigger an idea for you. Continue thinking and #otting down !uestions and ideas in your notebook - As you read, ideas and questions may strike you - write them down,s or you"ll lose track of them. >ook for issues which interest you, which arouse your curiosity or your passion. 8onsider the audience for your research paper2 what kinds of things have been discussed in class that seemed to interest the class and the instructor5 3hat kinds of issues were touched upon but could use further study and elaboration5

?ere is advice from 6urdue 1niversity on this process2 !rainstorm. @ather as many good and bad ideas, suggestions, examples, sentences, false starts, etc. as you can. 6erhaps some friends can oin in. <ot down everything that comes to mind, including material you are sure you will throw out. !e ready to keep adding to the list at odd moments as ideas continue to come to mind. Info Search - exploring your topic - !efore you can decide on a focus, you need to explore your topic, to become informed about the topic, to build on your knowledge and experience. 0ou"ll be locating books, articles, videos, internet and other resources about your topic and reading to learnA 0ou"re looking for an issue, an aspect, a perspective on which to focus your research paper. This is the first step in which you"ll probably be checking books out of the library. Bncyclopedias won"t be much help here. 0ou"re looking for treatments of your topic which are either more comprehensive or more specific than an encyclopedic treatment, with various authors" summaries, analyses and opinions. !ut, until you"ve chosen a focus, you"re not really on a mission of gathering information. If you gather information on the topic as a whole, you"ll waste a lot of time doing it and have way too much to sort through when you are ready to write your paper. Cesist the temptation to $gather$ until you"ve chosen a focus. Info Search - preliminary note taking As you read, start taking notes of what you"re learning about your topicDconcepts, issues, problems, areas where experts agree or disagree. =eep track of the bibliographic references for the information you"re using, and write down a note or two of what"s contained in the book, article, 3ebsite, etc. There"s nothing more frustrating than knowing you read something earlier about a particular point and not being able to locate it again when you decide it"s something you need. $urposeful thinking about possible focuses -3hile you"re learning about your topic, intentionally look for possible focuses in the material. 0ou could spend enormous amounts of time reading, especially about an interesting topic, without being any closer to a focus unless you purposefully keep that goal in your mind while you read. Choosing a focus or combining themes to form a focus - Try your choices of focus on for $siEe$ as you did your topic. 3hich ones fit the assignment, the siEe, scope and type of the paper5 Think about which of your possible focuses has the best chance for making a successful A+ paper. If you find several themes within your topic which each are too small to support the entire paper, can they be combined to form a focus5 Info Search - finding, collecting and recording This is the step most people think of when they think of $library research.$ It"s a hunt for information in any available form 'book, periodical, 87, video, internet+ which is pertinent to your chosen focus. Fnce you know the focus of your research, there are lots of tools and strategies to help you find and collect the information you need. 0our information search should be focused and specific, but pay careful attention to serendipity %finding, by chance, &aluable things you weren't e&en looking for' . =eep your mind open to continue learning about your focused topic. Gow is the time to carefully record your sources in the bibliographic format required by your instructor. Bvery piece of information you collect should have bibliographic information written down before you leave the library. #ee the links to 8iting #ources for information on how and when to use quotation, paraphrase and summary and how to conform to the required styles of citation in different fields of study. 0ou should also pay attention to the quality of the information you find, especially if you"re using information you find on the internet.

Think about clarifying or refining your focus - As you gather information about your focused topic, you may find new information which prompts you to refine, clarify, extend or narrow your focus. #tay flexible and ad ust your information search to account for the changes, widening or narrowing your search, or heading down a slightly different path to follow a new lead. Start organi(ing your notes - #tart organiEing your notes into logical groups. 0ou may notice a gap in your research, or a more heavy weighting to one aspect of the sub ect than what you had intended. #tarting to organiEe as you gather information can save an extra trip to the library. It"s better to find the gap now instead of the night before your paper is due 'obviouslyA+.

Info Search - finding, collecting and recording This is the step most people think of when they think of $library research.$ It"s a hunt for information in any available form 'book, periodical, 87, video, internet+ which is pertinent to your chosen focus. Fnce you know the focus of your research, there are lots of tools and strategies to help you find and collect the information you need. 0our information search should be focused and specific, but pay careful attention to serendipity %finding, by chance, &aluable things you weren't e&en looking for' . =eep your mind open to continue learning about your focused topic. Gow is the time to carefully record your sources in the bibliographic format required by your instructor. Bvery piece of information you collect should have bibliographic information written down before you leave the library. #ee the links to 8iting #ources for information on how and when to use quotation, paraphrase and summary and how to conform to the required styles of citation in different fields of study. 0ou should also pay attention to the quality of the information you find, especially if you"re using information you find on the internet. #ee the linked articles about Interpretation and Bvaluation of Information. Gow is also the time to learn the details of using search engines. 9any of the sources you will want to use are online, whether in the library or on the internet. #ee the Info #earch section and specifically the #kills for Fnline #earching article. )*+ Think about clarifying or refining your focus As you gather information about your focused topic, you may find new information which prompts you to refine, clarify, extend or narrow your focus. #tay flexible and ad ust your information search to account for the changes, widening or narrowing your search, or heading down a slightly different path to follow a new lead. )*, Start organi(ing your notes #tart organiEing your notes into logical groups. 0ou may notice a gap in your research, or a more heavy weighting to one aspect of the sub ect than what you had intended. #tarting to organiEe as you gather information can save an extra trip to the library. It"s better to find the gap now instead of the night before your paper is due 'obviouslyA+.

Info Search - finding, collecting and recording This is the step most people think of when they think of $library research.$ It"s a hunt for information in any available form 'book, periodical, 87, video, internet+ which is pertinent to your chosen focus. Fnce you know the focus of your research, there are lots of tools and strategies to help you find and collect the information you need. 0our information search should be focused and specific, but pay careful attention to serendipity %finding, by chance, &aluable things you weren't e&en looking for' . =eep your mind open to continue learning about your focused topic. Gow is the time to carefully record your sources in the bibliographic format required by your instructor. Bvery piece of information you collect should have bibliographic information written down before you leave the library. #ee the links to 8iting #ources for information on how and when to use quotation, paraphrase and summary and how to conform to the required styles of citation in different fields of study. 0ou should also pay attention to the quality of the information you find, especially if you"re using information you find on the internet. #ee the linked articles about Interpretation and Bvaluation of Information. Gow is also the time to learn the details of using search engines. 9any of the sources you will want to use are online, whether in the library or on the internet. #ee the Info #earch section and specifically the #kills for Fnline #earching article. )*+ Think about clarifying or refining your focus As you gather information about your focused topic, you may find new information which prompts you to refine, clarify, extend or narrow your focus. #tay flexible and ad ust your information search to account for the changes, widening or narrowing your search, or heading down a slightly different path to follow a new lead. )*, Start organi(ing your notes #tart organiEing your notes into logical groups. 0ou may notice a gap in your research, or a more heavy weighting to one aspect of the sub ect than what you had intended. #tarting to organiEe as you gather information can save an extra trip to the library. It"s better to find the gap now instead of the night before your paper is due 'obviouslyA+.

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