While you have completed research papers during your time in high school, college opens up a whole new range of exciting possibilities as you explore your interests and passions, make new discoveries from an abundance of resources, and aspire to reach your professional and personal goals.
As you first embark on a research task, begin by considering your information need.
- What is my research question? What am I curious about? What would I like to better understand?
- What are the parameters? Are there specific criteria that need to be met (e.g. for a course assignment)?
- What is the scope and depth of this topic? What specific aspect of the topic am I interested in exploring?
- What type of question am I trying to answer? Is there a known answer (e.g. How many miles is it from Los Angeles to Las Vegas?) or is it more complex than that (e.g. Should LA’s graffiti scene be considered art or vandalism)?
Once you’ve considered your information need, think about where and who that information might come from.
- Who would write about the topic I am interested in? What viewpoints might be valuable? Who are the people involved in or affected by this topic?
- What field of study (a.k.a. discipline), organization, or community would be having conversations about this topic?
- Is an expert needed (e.g. What are the dietary restrictions for diabetics?) or am I just looking for a trusted opinion (e.g. What are some easy recipes for low-sugar desserts?)?
Your information need might stem from a personal interest or a current event that you would like to investigate further. If you are following the guidelines of a particular research assignment, explore topics within these parameters in which you have a genuine interest. Approach your research with an open and adaptable mindset and remember that you may need to adjust your original questions throughout the research process as you gain new insights from a variety of perspectives.