Introduction

Research assignments—resulting in final products such as term papers, essays, posters, multimedia projects, blog posts, 3-D models, etc.—are a common requirement in college courses, but they can also be a source of stress when you aren’t sure what to do. This guide is intended to decrease your stress and increase your comfort with such assignments.

Research is never as linear as it looks on paper or this handbook. It’s always more an exploration than a straight path. So you may have to jump around a bit in this guide to meet your needs.

Think of research as an exploration, with unexpected twists and turns.

Tip: Decoding Writing Assignments

Professors steeped only in the research traditions of their own discipline may be unaware of how different conducting research can be in other disciplines. They may assume you already know what they expect for the research assignment they just gave you. But that may not be true at all: you may only know about how to conduct research in another discipline or, especially if you’ve been taking courses in multiple disciplines, be utterly confused because the expectations seem to change from course to course. This handout from the Ohio State University Writing Center can help you figure out what you need to do for your assignment.

Throughout this guide, we try to make more explicit some things less often talked about in class in order to “fill in the blanks.” The sections are ordered, more or less, as though you are conducting a research project while you’re reading them—from developing research questions through using sources in your writing. In between, you will learn how to figure out which sources to look for, how to find them, and how to evaluate them.

Under Additional Topics you’ll find information you may find helpful to help you navigate other questions—copyright, the fair use exception to copyright, and more.


Conversation Balloons?

The balloon graphics used throughout this guide are a reminder that you are entering the scholarly conversation when you do research and write about it. That conversation has been going on for many centuries. Now it’s your turn to join in.

Three colorful conversation balloons

This guide features colorful conversation balloons to emphasize that
you are entering the scholarly conversation when you do research and
write about it.