Skip to Main Content
Ask Us

Research Help: Getting Started

A guide to information literacy

Lightbulb -lit up

The first step in research is identifying an information need. Information needs can be academic or personal.


Research Questions

What do you need to know?

A good research question is the basis for your information search.  Your question should not be too broad ("What is the history of the United States?") or too specific ("How many people died at the Battle of Little Bighorn?").  It should be focused enough to guide you in a specific direction, but broad enough to not have a statistical answer.  Example: "What was the influence of local terrain on the Battle of Little Bighorn?".

Read more about Research Questions:

Thesis Statements

A thesis statement is the sentence in your essay that tells the reader what your paper is about.  Like a research question, it should be specific enough to guide your research and writing, but broad enough to allow depth of information.

Read more about Thesis Statements:

Concept Mapping

Create a concept map to help brainstorm your research topic. It's easy!

Ideas and Topics for Paper Writing


Keyword searching is an important part of your research process.  By selecting the best keywords to use in your search, you will increase the relevance of your search results. Keywords are significant nouns (or very specific phrases) taken directly from your research question or thesis statement.  Here is an example:

Research Question:  What effect does violence in the media have on children?

Keywords:  violence, media, children

You can also think of alternative terms for your keywords.

Violence: brutality, aggression, crime

Media: television, video games, movies

Children: youth, teens, kids, students

You now have an arsenal of great keywords to use in your search!

Read more about keyword searching: