RD/IRW 115 Information Literacy Project: Start Your Research

Guide for students in Reading 115 or Integrated Reading and Writing (IRW) 115, who are completing an information literacy project.

Background Research

Don't get lost in your topic!  Always start your research project by doing some background reading.   This will help you to understand the context of your topic so you can research more effectively.  You may also decide that you want to change the focus of your research as you learn more about your topic.  Your background readings will also help you identify keywords you can use in your searching as you continue your research.

Questions to Ask About Your Topic

As you start doing general reading to get an overview of your topic, here are some questions you may want to answer in your note-taking:

  1. What interests me about this topic?
  2. What questions do I have about this topic?
  3. Who is affected by this? Who cares about this?
  4. What are the major issues involved in this topic? Are there particular controversies or viewpoints of note?
  5. What key terms describe this topic or are there organizations or people should I be aware of?

Concept Map Your Topic

It can be helpful to create a concept map of your topic so that you can narrow down your topic or think of all the aspects of your topic you'd like to cover. A mindmap is a diagram of your topic and this three-minute video describes how to create one:

Sources for Background Research

Brainstorm Keywords for Searching

As you read about your topic, make a note of search terms that will be useful for finding articles on your topic.  When you are searching Google or other search engines, you can use "natural language" searching - just type in your whole question and you may find exactly what you want.  Database searching and advanced Google searching requires more precise use of search terms. 

Watch the 2 minute video from Portland State University below for some useful tips.