Take your list of 5 topics that you wrote about and consider a few things about them:

  • Which one did you choose first?
  • Which is the most interesting topic to you, now that you have written about it a little?
  • Is the most interesting topic the same one you picked first?
  • Are there other topics that came to mind as you wrote about these 5?

Sometimes the first thing that pops into our head seems silly or out of context, but can lead to other ideas... Let's see how this process might lead to a more concentrated research inquiry.

Preliminary Research

  • Spend about 15 minutes making a list of questions about your topic that you would like to have answered. This could be as specific or general a question as you want, but it needs to address your topic in a way that you aren't already familiar with it. If you have trouble coming up with questions right away, think about how other people might interact with your topic and what they might ask you about it.
  • Share your questions with your neighbor and help each other select one or two questions that "focus" the topic in some way. Try to use questions that allow many possible answers and can lead to new discoveries.
  • Using Bell Library databases, search for articles that relate to your question. Try using key words from your questions in your searches and change them up if you aren't having any luck. I will come around and help out where I can.
  • Once you have located a few reasonable sources, write down their titles and their call numbers from our periodical shelves. Save them for your homework this weekend!
  • Now lets try investigating some books. This is a little more challenging, because oftentimes books contain more information than just the topic we are looking to investigate. This means you may have to do some searching outside the classroom!
  • Once you have found a book that may relate to your topic, write down the necessary information and save it with your article info.
  • You've got your first leads! Congratulations!


  • Did this help you get started in the right direction?
  • Was there anything about this process that you found challenging?
  • Do you feel comfortable doing more of this on your own, or are you feeling lost about it?
  • The sources you found today may or may not end up on your bibliography. Don't feel as though today's exercise is the only way to approach this. We will look at some different ways to research you topic next week, but utilizing the Bell Library's resources is often the most effective use of your tuition money, in terms of research. Think about any questions you have about using the databases or card catalog and bring them with you on Tuesday.

Which leads to...


  • Take the sources that you have found today and find them in the library.
  • When you search for your book, spend a few extra minutes looking at the books around it on the shelf. Browse through them and look at the table of contents. Do any of them sound like they might benefit your investigation? If so, grab them too!
  • Bring at least one source with you on Tuesday and be prepared to discuss why it stood out to you as relevant to your topic.