When you're getting started with your research, it's important to answer a few questions before you start searching. The answers to these questions will form the basis of your research plan.
- What is your topic?
- The answer to this question shouldn't be an argument! If you're saying "I will argue that apples are bad for my health," you're likely to run into difficulties as you search. You may find information that contradicts your argument! Instead, answer this question with a topic: "I will research the impact of apples on my health." That way, your argument will develop out of the information that you find during your research. You'll end up with a stronger argument supported by the sources you find.
- What information do I need?
- In order to thoroughly explore your topic, what do you need to know? What forms will the information take? Are you looking for news articles, data, or journal articles?
- What words will I use to search?
- It's always worth making a list! Start with 5-10 terms, just to get started. Don't worry about making an exhaustive list—you'll identify new terms as you search and as you learn more about your topic.
- If you're having trouble brainstorming terms, try:
- Looking at Wikipedia. Don't use it as a source for your project. Do use it to learn more about the language people use to discuss your topic. Then take those terms and search other sources.
- Using synonyms. Take a look at the terms you already have. Can you restate them in any way? In the topic example, we discussed researching apples and health. Instead of "health" you might say "diet" or "nutrition." Using a wider variety of terms will help you find a wider variety of sources.
- Where will I search?
- Be specific about this! Which library databases will you use? If you're using news sources, which ones? To learn more about the resources available to you through UMD, take a look at the Finding Articles and Books tab on this page.
Once you've put together your research plan, you're ready to start searching. Don't be afraid to revise as you go! And if you have any questions or run into any roadblocks, feel free to contact your librarian.