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How to Start Research

Begin by asking yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I find interesting?
  • Why is it important?
  • How does it relate to my class's discussion?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • What research has already been done in that area?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a research plan should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm and ability to explore its limits. Leave your readers wondering, "Wow, what an exciting idea; I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"

Pro Tip: Very Recent Topics

Is your topic so recent that you are having trouble finding scholarly sources?

Here are some useful strategies:

Find information on the topic’s context. There is no such thing as an isolated incident.

Even an event that happened in the last hour developed out of historical conditions. Think about the policies, events, and rhetoric in which your topic is centered.

Find information on a similar past event and compare the two events as much as possible.

Examples include another earthquake, hurricane, political unrest, nuclear disaster that happened in the past which you can use to relate to the current event

Find information on related themes.

Such as the environmental impact of nuclear disaster, social and economic impact of political unrest, political aspects of nuclear disasters, etc.

Information Cycle refers to the ways that information is produced and distributed. Often the term news cycle - a kind of information cycle - describes the progression of media coverage of a particular newsworthy event. Information cycles can change over time.

Understanding that will help you to know how to locate and evaluate research sources available on your topic.

Same Day - social networking (e.g., Twitter, Facebook), mobile communication (e.g., texting), mainstream media (TV, radio, Internet news sites)

Next Day/Week of - newspapers

Following Week(s)-  popular magazines, general government information

Six Months later - scholarly journals

One year + later - books, government reports, reference material