WR 121 for Ida B. Wells HS: Step One: Get ready

Getting started on your research adventure

Research involves learning, and being willing and able to change your mind.

  • You begin with a question, an "I wonder..." As you read and explore, notice what interests you and pursue it. There will be some dead ends and also some intriguing new ways forward.

On a practical note:

  • Keep track of everything you find that seems interesting or useful:
    • You could use a Google Doc, or Word, or one long email, or pad and pen, or tons of browser tabs. It just need to work for you.
      • Copy links, MLA formatted citations if possible, and write yourself a note.

Who cares about your topic? Look for where they may have spoken/written about it. 

  • Start with Google (or another search engine). Check out 20 Google Search Tips if you want to get better results.

Look for a variety of perspectives on your topic.

  • Words matter! A keyword search for right to life bring up results with a different perspective than a keyword search for right to choose.
  • Adding site:org to your keyword search in Google will bring up .org websites. Then change site:org to site:gov or site:edu to get differenct perspectives.

Step 1: Learn about the context around your inquiry question

First, get to know more about the broader topic surrounding your inquiry question, the context(s) in which your question is situated.

Background sources like encyclopedias, news articles, and summary reports are good for finding out who is talking about your topic (psychologists? educators?) and an overview of what they think is important.

1. Search Encyclopedias for Background Research, the "Topic Search" in Academic Onefile or look for a news article in US Major Dailies or search Credo Reference to find at least one article that you are interested in reading.

2. As you read the titles or first sentence of articles you find, look for new terms that describe your topic and make note of them as potential search terms. Look for aspects of your question that you might not have thought of yet.

To get ideas about facets of your question, take a look at the "topic finder" on the right in Academic OneFile or the visual explorer tool in Credo Reference.

Topic Search - Academic OneFile

Look for the option to use a "Topic Finder" on the right-hand side of a results list in Academic OneFile. It's a great option for visually browsing aspects of an issue and viewing articles that address sub-topics.

Topic finder example wheel

Policy & research institutes

Policy and research institutes conduct and publish credible research, often including polls, and advocacy on social, political, cultural or economic issues. While most policy and research institutes are non-profit organizations, some have a political or ideological slant.

Get to know more about your topic - search one or more of the databases below

Turning an Interest into a Research Question

In this video, you’ll learn how to turn something you find interesting into a researchable question for a college research project.