The process you follow when researching and writing a paper usually has at least the following steps:
The steps in the process are as follows:
- Choosing a topic - If you can choose a topic, choose one that you're interested in! If you aren't sure, do some preliminary reading and searching using general terms to figure out what you might pick. There's more advice here.
- Choosing where to search - This is key. You should always use several search tools and types of sources for a good paper. If you are starting out and want an overview of a topic, look for Books and other background info here. If you are looking for the newest research on a very specific question, or your professor has told you to use peer-reviewed articles, you can use a Research Article database.
- Searching at each place you've chosen - It's important to plan your search strategy, since it can be tricky to find scientific info, especially on a specific topic. See the Books or the Research Article tabs for specific advice, and this guide.
- Reviewing what you find - Are you finding relevant information or do you need to modify your strategy? You can always contact me for advice! It's also important to organize the documents you find to save time later. You can use a citation manager (Zotero or Mendeley) to track what you find in your browser.
- Writing and citing: see the pages for advice on doing a literature review (or term paper) and citing your sources properly to avoid plagiarism.
Writing a research assignment or report is an iterative process - you don't just proceed linearly from one step to the next. It is normal to go back and refine your topic while you are researching, or to search some more while you are writing!