Many instructors assign a topic for a research paper, but sometimes they do not provide
you with a topic. Either way, it will be your task to prepare a document that will most
likely be graded. Use the following four steps to keep yourself moving in the right
Step 1: Determine your information need.
How much, and what types of, information will you need to complete the assignment?
ï‚· How will the information be presented? Are you writing an essay? A term
paper? Giving a speech?
ï‚· How much information do you need? How long does the paper need to be? A
2-paragraph essay may only require one source. A 15-page term paper could
require dozens of sources.
ï‚· What is the purpose of the assignment? To inform? To analyze? To
persuade? Will you need facts and statistics? Do you need to give an opinion?
Do you need to present both sides of an issue?
ï‚· Is your topic limited to a certain subject? Or do you get to choose? If it is
limited to a certain subject, how much do you already know about it? What
questions do you have about it? Does the nature of the subject require the
information to be up-to-date (technology, a recent event, etc)?
ï‚· Has your instructor specified a certain number or type of sources? Some
assignments require that you have a set number of different types of sources,
such as 2 books, 2 articles and 1 internet source. Make sure you are aware of
any such requirements before you start.
Step 2: Identify and develop your topic.
When you need to select a topic, here are a few things to remember:
ï‚· Choose a topic that interests you and is relevant to your life.
ï‚· List the words that are used to describe your topic
ï‚· Turn your thoughts and words into a question. For example, suppose you
would like to explore the topic of global warming. Think about what it is about
global warming that you want to find out, and frame a question, such as â€œHow will
global warming impact the type of job Iâ€™d like to pursue?â€
Step 3: Read General Background Information.
Read a general encyclopedia article or website on the top two or three topics you are
Step 4: Develop a Search Strategy
A search strategy consists of the keywords in your topic sentence.
Topic Sentence: College students engage in risky behavior.
college students risky behavior
Always identify synonyms or related words to help you obtain more results. Consult
Merriam-Websterâ€™s Thesaurus Online- http://www.m-w.com/ for additional terms.
Synonyms for risky behavior:
risk-taking risk-taking behavior
Think about different ways to define risky. Merriam-Websterâ€™s Thesaurus offers these
dangerous grave grievous hazardous
jeopardizing menacing parlous perilous
serious threatening unhealthy unsafe
Choose examples of specific risky behaviors:
high-risk drinking substance abuse sexual risk-taking
Obtaining a variety of terms allows you to develop a more sophisticated search
Step 4: Search the Delaware Library Catalog and
Library Databases to find background information
and resources on your topic.
Use the Delaware Library Catalog or WorldCat.org to find books on your topic available
in libraries. Both the Delaware Library catalog and WorldCat.org also list journal titles,
videotapes, DVDs and CDs that the library owns. The Wilmington University Library
subscribes to many electronic scholarly databases that can be used to search for
articles about your topic. Many databases also provide the full text of the article.
Step 5: Find Internet Resources.
Topic-oriented websites can provide you with useful leads in your research. For
example, try using:
The Internet Public library: http://www.ipl.org/
â€œVirtual Libraryâ€ (http://vlib.org/)
â€œLibrarians Internet Indexâ€ (http://lii.org/).
Step 4: Cite what you find.
“Citing a source,” means that you are telling the reader of your paper where you got a
specific quote, fact, graphic, or idea. This allows the reader to check up on your
information, to make sure you have:
ï‚· drawn on authoritative sources
ï‚· used them fairly
ï‚· copied from them accurately
ï‚· included all important details
ï‚· and interpreted them correctly
All courses at Wilmington University use the â€œAPA Style Manualâ€. APA stands for
American Psychological Association. The APA has published this manual to help
writers, students, and professionals in the field of psychology prepare and write papers.
This system has also been adopted by many other fields as well
Because the field of publishing is constantly changing, updates in APA style can be
found at the APA Publication Manual Web site: http://www.apastyle.org
Smith, G., Simmons, J., Flory, K., Annus, A., & Hill, K. (2007).
Thinness and eating expectancies predict subsequent binge-eating and
purging behavior among adolescent girls. Journal of Abnormal
Psychology, 116(1). Retrieved from PsycARTICLES database.
Authorâ€™s Names Journal Date
Journal Volume &
Name of Subscription Service or
Database Journal Title Retrieval information
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