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How to do Research

Research is a process of inquiry: Asking questions, following the answers

Research Projects - the easy way!

Whether your assignment is for a written paper, a speech, a demonstration or presentation, a film or a digital media production, there is an easy way to find a suitable topic, and to get the information you need. The process outlined in this guide will help you. Follow the tabs on this guide to develop your knowledge and understanding of the issues and problems relevant to your topic, and you will be able to confidently write or speak about it in your final product. Each tab describes a phase in the research process:

  • People: Conversation helps you form your ideas
  • Internet: What's trending, what's popular
  • Encyclopedias: Well-organized outlines of facts and basic, background information
  • Summaries and reports: Bias-free, often with pro / con outlines
  • Books: Broad overviews and in-depth analysis
  • About Articles:  What is an Article? Specific arguments, experiments, analysis, reporting on events, and scholarly research.
  • Finding Articles: Strategies for searching effectively, and how to cite your sources correctly
  • Good to Know: good advice that may help prevent some of the most common problems that students confront
  • More Help: because there's always more! More information, more ways to find it, more things that might confuse or distract you. Don"t be shy about asking for help.

Narrowing and Focusing Topics

BROAD TOPICS are generally phrases that describe a big idea or thing:

  • Gun control
  • Immigration
  • Global warming
  • Healthcare

RESTRICTED TOPICS may only be one part of the broad topic or they may link two different ideas.  In the examples below, “water pollution” is a particular type of pollution; “Nutrition and pregnancy” links the broad topic of nutrition with pregnancy to focus it.

NARROWED TOPICS give your research more focus.  In the examples below, “Pollution in San Francisco Bay” is still looking at “water pollution” – but only water pollution in a particular location.  “Commercial salmon fishing” is looking at the salmon fishing industry, rather than at sport fishing.

As you do your research, you need to ask very specific, focused questions to find out the information for your paper.

  • You will usually need to ask very specific, focused questions to find out the information for your paper.
  • Your questions should generally ask for facts, not opinions, (if your questions start with "Should", you're asking for an opinion!)
  • Remember:  Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

Who     =   People
What    =   Facts; causes and effects
When   =   Time
Where  =   Place(s) or geographical information
Why     =   Reasons
How     =   Methods (How many, How much = Statistics, amounts)

How to broaden, restrict, and focus research questions.

Broad Topic

Restricted Topic

Narrowed Topic

Focused Research Question #1

Focused Research Question #2

Pollution water pollution pollution in San Francisco Bay What is the most common pollutant in the bay? Where does the pollution come from?
Fishing salmon fishing commercial salmon fishing When can fisherman legally catch wild salmon? Why don't people only eat farm raised salmon?
Nutrition nutrition and pregnancy vegetarian diets and pregnancy How much protein does a pregnant woman need to eat daily? What foods will provide the most protein in a vegetarian diet?

Citation Styles

Always ask your instructor what citation style should be used for research projects. See below for links to helpful resources.

Remote Login Required

If you are off campus, or if you are using a wireless device while on campus, you may be prompted to login with your CR email address and password to get into the library's subscription databases or eBooks. Remote login is required to prove that you are a student at College of the Redwoods, because the library pays for student, faculty, and staff access for these resources based on our student enrollment. (Login is not required if you are using a computer connected to the main campus network.)

Helpful Handouts & Guides