Skip to Main Content

How Do I Start My Research?


If you've gotten this far with your topic, chances are you have identified a topic with a feasible scope.

If, however, you feel like you've painted yourself into a corner and are not sure how to pull off your paper, you might need to reconsider your original research question. This is your permission to step back from your topic and an invitation to go back through steps 1-4 to be sure you're on the right track.

Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees, which is a weird expression, but sometimes we get bogged down in the details and fail to see the big picture.

If you are experiencing any of these metaphors involving paint or trees, now would be a great time to visit your professor during office hours or to make an appointment with a librarian for a research consultation.

If you're not sure you need an appointment, at least go back through the 'Questions to Refine Your Topic' in Step 1 and be sure you're not missing a key subtopic in the question you're investigating.

How to Read a Scholarly Article

Take a Moment to Reflect

This is a moment for you to reflect upon the work that you have done. Why? Because reflection is part of the research process! 

Think especially about the search terms you have used so far. Where did they take you? Did you find what you were expecting? Are there other synonyms that you still have to try? Which searches worked well and which ones didn't? Now is a good time to do a couple of experiments. You may find you need to make minor tweaks to your topic or major changes. Also, consider tracking your research in a spreadsheet or research journal of some sort. You'd hate to run the same searches over and over again. And you might just start to identify some patterns in your thinking that could help you pivot into a new direction.

If you like the idea of tracking your research, here's a sample to give you an idea of what that might look like:

6 Question Words Source Evaluation