By Joe Scollo, Marvin K. Peterson Library
As the semester gets rolling along, I’m sure many of you are looking ahead to October and dreading the days when your first round of research papers are due. With procrastination in full effect and the due date quickly approaching, the first step to successfully writing a research paper is to select a topic. With a good paper topic, it is easier to find appropriate scholarly articles and resources. However with a poor topic, writing a paper becomes extremely difficult, time-consuming and stressful. The best advice I can give you is to relax. Once you are relaxed, remember that the library is here to help you, and with an abundance of resources available from your home computer, it has never been easier to select a topic and conduct research.
The first step to finding a good topic for your paper is to think of something that is really interesting to you. It’s always easier to write a paper on a topic that interests you. Following the news is an easy way to discover new research topics, because they are the issues that are currently on the minds of many people (i.e: immigration reform, the issue of for-profit-colleges, the BP Oil Spill, etc.). However, be careful that the topic is not too recent. If the topic you select pertains to an event/person/story that occurred within the last few months, there may not be sufficient journal articles and books written on the subject. It is always best to select a topic that occurred or made headlines more than four months ago so professionals in the field have had time to write scholarly work on the topic.
If the topics in the news do not spark your interest or if the issues are not relevant to your class, searching through a few of the databases located on the library’s website is another simple way to select an appropriate topic for your paper. The library’s website is accessible from the University’s homepage; just click on the tab titled, “Library” on the top toolbar, and a blue navigation bar will appear on the left side of the library homepage. Select “Databases” and then click on the “Alphabetical Listing and Databases on Preview” tab. You will then be prompted to login to the computer using your UNH network login. Once you have logged in, there are several databases that will be useful for selecting a paper topic and will provide ample background information to get you started. One of the databases, CQ Researcher, is an excellent place to start, as it presents weekly articles on some of the hottest topics, ranging from reality television to the death penalty. You can even browse by topic, and get the pros and cons on each issue.
Another useful database for selecting a topic would be Discovering Collection. Once you enter the database, a list of popular topics is located on the right side of the page. A simple click on the word runs a keyword search for that topic. Located on the main toolbar, a feature called “topic trees” allows the user to select a subject area of interest. Once a subject is chosen, a list of the most popular searches under that particular subject is provided, and again, a simple click on the heading runs a keyword search for that topic. It makes selecting a topic for your paper fast and simple. Other useful databases for getting background information include CREDO Reference, Academic OneFile, U.S. History in Context, and JSTOR.
Much of the same information from this article is located within LibGuides, which are located on the UNH Library homepage. LibGuides are helpful aids that students can use to research certain topics. To access the LibGuides, once you are on the library homepage, on the left hand side of the page select “Guides,” and this will bring you to the LibGuide homepage. Once inside, on the left side select the link titled “Research Guides,” then choose “Introduction to Research.”
If you need help finding additional resources the reference librarians are experts at conducting research, and will take the time to teach you proper search techniques so you can find suitable articles by yourself. For help, please stop by the library’s Information Desk, call the Information Desk at (203) 932-7189, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org We are willing to help you with all your research needs, so don’t be shy; it’s why we are here.Tweet