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Research 101: Getting Started: Your Action Plan

Know how to choose a good topic, create a good search, & read critically.

Part 1: Planning your Research

Once you have a manageable topic, have a basic idea of search strategy, & know how to read effectively, it's time to plan your research! To plan your research, you need to answer these 6 questions:

State the reason you are doing the research in your own words. What is your assignment? What are you trying to argue or prove?

  • Each question will need its own search strategy—keep track of your questions!
  • Each question answered becomes part of your paper/presentation

Do you need data to present? Do you need someone's opinion? Do you need an expert's opinion? Do you need to find research someone has put together? If you're not sure, ask your professor


Depending on what kind of information you need, you may need to consult one or more of the following:

  • News stories - current or historical
  • Scholarly research in articles, books
  • Data sets for statistics, demographics, in print and/or online
  • Specialized dictionaries, handbooks, professional associations for definitions, trends
  • Surveys of attitudes, practices, opinions

You have many options, based on the kind of information you need:

  • Local, state, national library catalogs
  • Library databases
  • Google or another search engine
  • Google Scholar or another academic search engine
  • Specialized scholarly search engines
  • Public databases
  • References cited in the articles and books I’ve already found

You will most likely be limited by the following, so keep them in mind:

  • Time
  • Types of resources
  • What information is available and what isn’t
  • Length of paper/presentation

The Bigger Picture: Time & Project Management

Planning to do research requires good skills in time management & project management. Need help learning to manage your time and your planing better? Meet with an ARC tutor for assistance!.

The Research Experts

Planning to do research requires that you also know what resources are available to you & how to navigate them successfully. Ask a librarian for assistance--Librarians are research experts!

Part 2: Putting it All Together

So once you've done some of your research, you'll have a few more questions to consider:

  1. What information do I still need?
  2. What have I discovered?
  3. Does the information I've found back my argument, my thesis, my hypothesis?
  4. Do I need to change my opinion and my hypothesis based on the evidence I've found?
  5. How do I best tell my readers what my argument is and how I can support it with what I've found?


The Bigger Picture: My Argument, My Reasons, & The Evidence 

Plan your research & your paper around these fundamental principles:

  • Make your claim. What's the answer to your research question?
  • State your reasons. Why should you & your readers believe your claim to be the truth?
  • Make your claim based on evidence. How do you know your reasons are true?
  • Include evidence without bias. Are there other views? Evidence that might contradict your arguments? Don't avoid it--address it.