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Designed for psychology students, this guide takes you through the Library’s resources to improve your research.
First things first...

Research success necessitates organization and a research plan:

  • Good notetaking is vital, including an organized way to capture the information needed to cite your sources properly.
  • Your credibility as a researcher is related to your ability to plan and organize your work.
  • Good notetaking helps to prevent plagiarism.
The Benefit of Background Information

Once you have your research question(s) and topic, it is important to find sources to build your background information:

  • Tertiary sources (dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) are very helpful in building your background knowledge of a topic.
  • Background knowledge means taking note of the specialized vocabulary, people, places, and dates associated with the topic.
  • This knowledge is how you will best build relevant keyword and subject searches.
Research Emotions

The research process is emotional and cyclical!

  • At the beginning you might feel excitement about your topic or uncertainty in your abilities or a little bit of both.
  • During the process you will have highs and lows, successes and frustrations, as you search for sources and really dig into the material.
  • The highs and lows will come and go throughout the process—this is all perfectly normal.
  • Even at the end, especially of a big project that you have spent a lot of time on, you might be excited to be finished, nervous about your grade, or a bit unsure of what do to with all your free time.
  • It's all normal!
Components of a Research Paper or Project


As you engage in the research process, you will encounter the following major components.  

Though the order may differ from what's listed below, these are vital pieces of conducting sound research. 

  • Select Topic
  • Ask Questions / Inquiry
  • Conduct Preliminary Research
  • Gather & Evaluate Sources
  • Freewrite
  • Build Works Cited page
  • Complete Draft
  • Revise & Edit Draft for Structure & Voice
  • Revise & Refine Draft
  • Finalize Paper/Project for Submission
Developing a Topic


Narrowing Your Topic


Consider these questions:

  • What subjects or ideas interest you?
  • What kinds of life experience do you have?
  • What kinds of issues have affected you or people you care about?
  • Do you have a passion about an idea, a question, a subject? How can you explain or describe it such that others might be passionate about it as well?
  • Does your subject have an edge? Does the topic have passionate supporters and opponents as well as being logical and reasonable. Is it debatable. Is it an unsolved problem?.

These questions may generate ideas. Next brainstorm. Which topics are most worthy of your time? Why is your topic significant? What angle might you take to fulfill the requirement: informative, persuasive, etc. Consider making your topic specific. For example:

What are the unique benefits of art therapy?

Avoid over-done topics. When you are narrowing your topic choices, try to choose something fresh and interesting.

Researching Your Topic


Write out your research question or thesis statement. Underline words that you believe best represent the main ideas.

What are the benefits of art therapy?

Second, create a list of synonyms for each word you underlined and use these terms to search for resources.

help OR improvements
mental health
painting OR drawing

You can add additional terms as you survey what is available:

help OR improvements AND painting therapy
painting or sculpting or drawing

As you gather resources be sure to evaluate the resources!

Check out the Searching Strategies for Websites and Databases for more tips.
Check out the Evaluating Resources page to avoid choosing bad sources for your projects!