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ENF 2: Preparing for College English II (Pettibon-LO): Research Process

This guide has been created by NOVA librarians to help you find and use sources of information for your research project. Direct comments to

Research Process

Select a career or a professional field that you can argue is ideal for your skill set and goals, and that you want to learn more about through research.

It's ok if your career or field is broad at first.

  • Example: information technology

After you do some research, you can always later identify a more narrow career based on what you've discovered.

  • Examples:
    • app developer
    • programmer
    • software engineer

Need ideas? Click the link for more information through the University of Tennessee on "What Can I Do With this Major?" View possible career paths associated with academic fields of study.

Ask questions and write down the answers to help identify what you already know about your topic, what you need to answer to complete your assignment, and what you don't yet know but would like to learn. These will help guide your research. Open-ended questions are useful when doing research because they require more than simple, short answers like "yes" or "no." 

Examples of questions to ask about your career:

  • Why and how did you become interested in this career?
  • What do you already know about it? 
  • What would you like to learn more about it, or what questions do you hope to answer with more research?
  • What skills, education, training, or experience are needed to obtain a position in your field?

Examples of questions to ask about why the career is ideal for you:

  • What type of work or aspects of a work environment are important to you?
  • What talents, skills, or experience do you have that make your chosen career ideal for you?
  • What are your career, personal, and/or professional goals?
  • How do you think pursuing your chosen career will help you achieve your goals?

Click the link for more information on how to Refine Research Questions (via University of Toledo University Libraries). 

To begin background research on your topic, identify search terms. Write down keywords and phrases related to your topic, including synonyms and broader and narrower terms. Continue to add to your list of search terms throughout your research.

Example: Information technology

  • Synonyms/related terms: ITcomputer science
  • Broader terms: technologySTEM
  • Narrower terms: app development, computer programming 

Use keywords to search the Web, and books and articles through the library (see tabs at top of guide for more info) to start learning more about your topic. 

While you explore:

  • Jot down important words and phrases related to your topic as you come across them, which may help you as you continue to research. 
  • Be aware of potential biases that may be influencing the sources. Some sources are clearly more subjectively biased towards a specific agenda.
  • Keep track of your sources. Make sure to email yourself citations from sources that catch your attention. 

After you've explored your topic through background research, draft a thesis statement that clearly states your position/claim, and identifies main points to support your claim. Your thesis statement forms the central focus of your paper. 

Next identify any other questions you'd still like to answer. Your draft thesis and follow-up questions can help guide the rest of your research.

Eventually you may decide to keep your thesis as is or modify it based on further research. 

Evaluate your sources to verify their credibility by using some of the following questions:

  • WHO is the author and what are his/her credentials?
  • WHEN was the source written and does the publication date work with the scope of your paper?
  • WHAT (if any) evidence does the author use to support their claims? No evidence = no credibility.
  • WHY does the source exist and why did the author create it? Is the purpose to inform, instruct, persuade, entertain?
  • HOW does this source relate to your topic and thesis?

With your thesis statement and verified sources in hand, you are ready to write your paper. 

  • Create an outline to help organize your thoughts. 
  • Keep your paper focused around your thesis, and cite your sources within the body of the paper.
  • Ask for help if you need it!
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