STEP 1 BRAINSTORM TOPIC IDEAS
To begin, write down some ideas that you would like to learn more about. When you have a broad area or two in mind, brainstorm all of the possible associations that pop into your head related to those ideas. For example, the topic of Polar Bears might bring “ice, cubs, pollution, hunting, diet, environmental icon, population, and melting” to mind. Tip: Choose a topic that interests you and would interest others. You'll do better research when the topic is of interest to you.
STEP 2 BACKGROUND RESEARCH
Use an encyclopedia, browse the Internet, or read your textbook to do some background research on some of your topic ideas. You might begin to note important words, phrases and concepts these resources mention, and use them to find additional information. You might consider researching a certain era or period of time (e.g. World War II), geographic location (e.g. China), or groups (e.g. Cantonese).
STEP 3 DEVELOP A TOPIC QUESTION
After you have some good topic ideas, it can be helpful to format your ideas into a question that can be answered. Think of your topic as a question, and your thesis as the answer to that question. Avoid asking closed questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no; rather ask open-ended questions instead that explores in-depth. This keeps your research fluid so you can adapt your question to any unforeseen research bumps.
STEP 4 RESEARCH
In-depth research is basically looking for information that supports your topic question. The information may come from articles, books, or other sources. Remember that your research is a dynamic process, so don't be afraid to discover new things. Select a topic that has enough resources to support your thesis. You will encounter problems if you don't have enough supporting resources.
STEP 5 DEVELOP A THESIS
Your thesis is the major claim that you will make in your paper, and you'll use all of the sources from your research to support that claim. If you think of your topic as a question, think of your thesis as the answer to that question.
It's also important to consider the scope of your topic. If it is too broad, it might be tough to find information that is relevant to you. If your topic is too narrow, it might be tough to find any information at all. Generally, it is good to start out with a slightly broad topic that you can further develop and narrow as you find information.
You might find that resources provided by your library can be really helpful, and you can access many of these resources online through your library's website.
Don't forget that our librarians are excellent resources!