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Education Research Guide: How do I do research?

A guide to using the library and conducting research for students taking classes in the Department of Education.

Picking a Topic

When you're given an assignment, sometimes your instructor will tell you what to write about but, most of the time, you're going to have to pick a topic!

When you're trying to decide what to write about, start with the assignment guidelines your instructor gave you. These guidelines will help you decide if some topics are appropriate or not, depending on the type of assignment you have to do.

Once you have a grasp of the requirements of your assignment, start brainstorming! Think about these questions:

  • Is there something going on in the news or on social media that makes you angry, excited, or worried?
  • Is there something you covered in class that you want to learn more about?
  • What personal interests do you have? Is there anything you want to learn more about?
  • Do you have a strong opinion about something?

Pick something you're interested in! You're the one that has to do the research and reading, so it's a lot easier to pick a topic that's interesting to you. I want to encourage you to pick something you're passionate about, even if you think it isn't "academic." You can talk with me and/or your instructor if you're not sure. I'd love to talk with you and help you figure out a topic for your assignment!

Doing Google searches and reading Wikipedia articles are great ways to find a topic, especially if you can't think of anything. The video created by librarians at NC State, "Picking Your Topic Is Research!" is a great example of how to find a topic that you're interested in and you're able to flesh out into a full research assignment.

Broadening and Narrowing Your Topic

If you pick a topic that's too broad (like "special education") or too narrow (like "experiences of 7th grade students in social studies classes in Guilford county") you may have a hard time finding good resources.

If you need to narrow your topic, try thinking of a specific place and time. If you're interested in researching special education, you could try researching high school special education programs in the United States.

If you need to broaden your topic, look for alternative associated ideas. If you want to study experiences of 7th grade students in social studies classes in Guilford county, you could research middle grades social studies in North Carolina.

Picking your topic is research! Check out the video on this page about changing your topic if you're not able to find any good sources. Or, of course, contact me!

My Research Process

Even though I'm not a student, I do research all the time! I created this video to show you my thought process when I'm researching a topic.

Picking Your Topic IS Research!

This 3-minute video from the NC State Libraries shows you the process of picking a topic and refining it if you don't find the results you're looking for.

But where do I search?

It depends on what you're looking for!

Use the tabs at the top of this guide to navigate to pages that explain more about each type of source, and links to recommended places to search.

Literature Reviews

This video by NC State gives a great, detailed description of what a literature review is and how they work!