This is the "Research Paper" page of the "Social Problems" guide.
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Last Updated: Sep 20, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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More Help

Here are some additional websites you can use to help you with your research assignemnts:


Getting Started

Introduction to Research

Research needs and requirements vary with each assignment, project or paper. Although there is no single “right” way to conduct research, certain methods and skills can make your research efforts more efficient and effective.

  • Choosing and developing a research topic
  • Finding books, articles and other materials
  • Evaluating resources
  • Citing sources

Choosing and developing a research topic

Suggestions for finding a topic

  • Discuss your ideas with your course instructor.
  • Discuss your ideas with a reference librarian.
  • Look over the index and the article titles in a specialized encyclopedia that covers a relevant subject area or discipline.
Identifying a topic

State your topic idea as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about Title IX (Title Nine) and women athletes in college athletic programs, you might pose the question, “How did Title IX impact women athletes in college athletic programs?”

Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question. These are potential search terms. In this case they are “title ix,” “women,” “athletes,” and “college athletic programs”.

Testing the topic

Before you commit to a specific topic for your research, do a scan to make sure that your topic isn’t completely covered in another paper; at the same time ensure that there is enough information available to complete the project. This can be particularly important if you are planning on using data in your research. If in doubt, ask your professor.

If you are finding too much information and too many sources, narrow your topic. For example: “women and athletes and college and athletics”.

Finding too little information may indicate that you need to broaden your topic by using a more general term or terms in your search.

Evaluating Sources

The online writing lab at Purdue (OWL) has a very good section on evaulating resources you may want use you as part of your research.

Evaluating Resources


Citing sources

When writing a research paper, it is important to cite the sources you used in a way such that a reader could find them. One useful tool for citing sources is the

Landmark Citation Machine.

These are the most common formats for citing sources. If you are unsure what style to use, ask your professor.


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