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ENG 111 (Maggio-Loudoun)

Research tips for your research paper! Direct comments and questions to Eliza Selander,

Need Help?


For individual research help, schedule an appointment to meet with a librarian.

Getting Started with Research

Do you prefer taking notes on paper or on a computer?

How will you keep track of your research?

Do you have a few topic options in mind? If not, try the Opposing Viewpoints database and click on Browse Issues.

You can also search for any word or phrase in the library catalog or look through the bookshelves (also called "stacks"). Literature (like novels) are in the "P" section (library books are arranged by topic on the shelves) or you can try browsing any other topic that you might want to write about. See more book ideas here.

Questions to ask to refine or develop your topic:

  • What do you wonder about this topic?
    • What might be the top 10 factual questions you would want answered?
  • When did this topic first occur to you?
    • Where were you at the time?
    • Which questions led you to this topic?
    • Which sources or experiences made you think of this idea?
    • Why, do you think?
  • What might be another way of phrasing or explaining what you want to learn or figure out?

Topic questions modified from Rea and Mullaney, Inside Higher Ed.

Once you have a general topic in mind, brainstorm 5-10 related search terms BEFORE you start your research. This will help you define your research question.

For example: Search terms for Video Games could include types of games such as simulation or first-person shooter. Search terms for Video Games could also include related words or terms about the experience like relax(ation)education(al) or benefits, problem-solving, or harm. Search terms can also include names of people, events, or places: while researching Video Games you could use terms like Call of DutyZelda, or Gamergate.


Save what you find (print it, email it to yourself, or copy and paste information and citations into a document) and keep it in a place you can easily find it again.

Goals for Our Library Research Session

Come up with 2-3 topic ideas. Identify at least 5-10 key concepts that interest you about one of these ideas.

Goal 1. Identify at least 5-10 key concepts that interest you about your topic, and form your research question.

Goal 2. Identify at least two ways to get research assistance from the library.

Goal 3. Find at least two sources in class today. Save them so that you can find them later. It's OK if you don't end up using them in your final paper!