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Junior Research: Researching

Before You Start Your Research

Research doesn't have to be hard, but it does take time.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Read your assignment thoroughly and carefully.
    • What is your teacher asking you to do? What types of resources do you need to find? How many?  When is your assignment due?
  2. Choose your topic.
    • Choose a topic that interests you.
    • Is the topic researchable? Can you find resources easily on your topic?
  3. Brainstorm.
    • What do you know about your topic?
    • What does your audience know?
    • What do you need to show/prove to get your point across?
  4. Collect some background information on your topic.
    • Read a bit of information about your topic try Encyclopedia Britannica Online or GVRL. 
    • Get a feel for your topic - Is this the direction you want to go in?
  5. Refocus: Is your topic too broad or too narrow.
  6. Brainstorm Again: Make a list of all the ideas or questions you have about your topic or Make a cloud image of your ideas.  See video on this page.
  7. Write a list of keywords.
    • Use your Brainstorm List or Cloud.
    • Create a list of all the words commonly used to describe your topic. This will make it easier to modify your search terms while conducting library research.
    • Don't forget to check for synonyms for your keywords.

         8. Locate your source(s) and start searching.

  • Do you need to find scholarly articles? Books? News? Images? The library has resources to help you locate whatever you need
  • Need help choosing the best database or resource? Ask the Librarian.


Information & Research Services Department at FIU's Green Library  CC-BY-NC-SA and Clark College Libraries.

Essay Topics Suggestions

Enter one or two words into the Generator to see possible topics to research. Under topic select the type of paper you are writing. Enter your topic keyword and click Generate for suggestions.

Old Dominion University has a list of topics divided by subject area if you would like to look at these for research paper suggestions.

Good Research Paper Topics  from My Speech

Brainstorming Topic Ideas

Clark College Libraries.  (3:43 min) Make sure you are logged into your Google account to watch video.

Background Knowledge

The Purpose of Gathering Background Information


  • If you are unfamiliar with the topic, it provides a good overview of the subject matter.
  • It helps you to identify important facts related to your topic -- terminology, dates, events, history, and names or organizations.
  • It can help you to refine your topic.
  • You might find a list of references that provide a starting point for your research.

Helena College Library

Great Location to get background information for your argumentative paper.  Provided by NHC Public Library. Use your School ID# to login.

Credo Reference

Focusing On A Topic

How to Focus on a Topic
Topic Narrower Topic Even Narrower
global warming environment

rising sea levels

loss of rainforests

air pollution

violent weather events


Kyoto Protocol

Paris Climate Agreement

role of governments


human element

impact on human health

reducing use of fossil fuels



corporate responsibility

mitigating damage


developing countries

Antarctic region

loss of glacial ice

Clark College Libraries

Note Taking

  • Taking Notes During Research
  • Organize notes. Regardless of whether you use index cards or a notebook, keep all of your notes stored in a single, easy-to-find location. Date each note, and name each source. Color-coding notes for ideas or sections of your research, for example a blue ink title for any information on the Boston Tea Party, and a red ink title for the Battle of Lexington and Concord, will also help keep your ideas organized.
  • Write one idea heading or quote on each note card or page. This helps organize the ideas or points you want to address in your research paper. Is the quote important? Does it help you understand the topic of research? If the answer to both of these questions isn't "yes," don't use the quote.
  • Write down all source information for citing. This includes the title, the page numbers, the author and/or editor, the year of publication, the publisher, and the city of publication. This is essential information for bibliographies, and if you write it down during your initial research, it will save you frustration and time hunting for it later.
  • Always use quotation marks around direct quotes from a work, to keep from unintentionally plagiarizing. Also mark the author of a quote, whether it's a researcher or a literary character, for reference when writing your paper.  
  • "Taking Good Notes". Points of View: Writing an Essay..2014, p2-2. 1p.