Your research needs will most often be determined by your assignment.  How many sources will you need?  Do they need to be scholarly, primary, or secondary?  Should you use a newspaper or government source?

A research task may or may not come with stipulations about sourcing, and it is up to you to know the details of your assignment.


Places to go for information


First review the assignment sheet.  If that is unclear or you would like further guidance, email your professor and set up a time to meet, or visit during his/her office hours.

You may also want to talk to dependable students in your class to see if they have additional insight into the assignment.

Keep in mind that your teacher is the most valuable and accurate resource!


What do you already know?


It is important to recognize that you are not the end-all, be-all authority on your subject, and that you will need to inform yourself with outside sources written by experts in the field.  That is not to say, however, that you know nothing of value.

Having a brainstorming session in which you write down all the things you already know about your subject will clarify the extent of your knowledge, help you pinpoint areas of confusion, and connect ideas that you had not fully mapped out in your mind before.

Once you have a research subject in mind, take some time to figure out what you already know about your topic. Take a sheet of paper and write everything that comes to mind. You need not write in complete sentences or fully develop your ideas. For now, simply note what you already know. After you have written your notes, ask yourself if there are details you don’t know that would give you a fuller understanding of the topic.


Some Good Questions to Ask:


Is there a particular process, person, or sequence of events that is unclear?

How do my concepts fit together?

Do  laws, agreements, or social mores  govern my subject?

What is the history of my subject?

What is the social context of my subject?

Are there different sides of the issue?

Am I on one particular side of the issue?

Why do I feel the way I do about my topic?


Answering these questions will tell you where you need to focus your research.

Your prior knowledge can help you get started on you research task, especially if you have a clear idea about what kind of questions you need to ask to learn more.