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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 2a. Know your information need

A guide to help you through the steps of the research process.

The Research Assignment - Define the Task

Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment. Consider:

  • Have you been assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources (e.g. scholarly journal, book, etc.)?
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?
  • Is currency of information important?

When in doubt, consult with your instructor.

Selecting a Topic - Overview

Topic Ideas

 Can’t think of a topic to research?

  • Scan your textbook.
  • Peruse current magazines and newspapers.
  • Read background information on your topic in encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses.
  • Discuss topics with your instructor, a librarian or a classmate.

Article and Newspaper Databases

Do some preliminary searches in general article and newspaper databases to get ideas for a research topic.


Choose a topic that interests you
and will hold your attention. If you do, the research will be more enjoyable!