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Your Research Assignment

Understanding your research assignment and picking a topic.

Your Assignment is Where it All Starts

Understanding your assignment is key. You should read your assignment as soon as you get it just so you have time to ask your instructor about anything that you’re not sure of.

Having the assignment with you when you search can help ensure that the sources that you find will work for the assignment. Circle, highlight or underline important requirements. If you are not sure what your instructor wants, ask!

What is your instructor asking you to do?

When reading your assignment focus on verbs like analyze, summarize or compare to understand what your instructor wants from you. Other important words to watch out for are how, why, when, etc. All of these words will help you focus on what you need for your research topic.

What are the rules of the assignment?

Many instructors have rules that they want you to follow in order to complete the assignment successfully. They frequently include things like:

  • How long your paper or presentation should be
  • What kind of information you can use
    • That might include things like your textbook, class notes, books, articles, and Internet
    • It might also include how long your sources need to be, when they were written and who wrote them
  • What style format you should use
    • MLA, APA, GSA, etc.
  • What style of writing or presentation you should use
    • Informational, persuasive, reflective, annotated bibliographies, scientific, etc.
  • In what format your work should be turned in
    • Word, RTF, PowerPoint, etc.
  • What kinds of topics you can use

Pick Your Topic

Once you have and understand your assignment, choosing a topic is the next step in the research process. In some cases, you will be assigned a specific topic for your research paper. In other cases you will be able to complete your research on a topic of your choice.

If you are able to choose your own topic, try to choose a topic that is interesting to you. You will be spending quite a bit of time doing research and writing your paper--interest in the topic can make the process much easier and help you write a better paper.

Can't Think of a Topic?

TipGet ideas from a database! If you're having a hard time coming up with a topic, you can actually get ideas from databases. Plus you'll already have sources available right from the database! The brief guides below show you the best databases to go for ideas on current events, history, literature or science. 


Tips for Your Assignments

TipsHere are some popular tips to help you find the sources you need for the college level research you'll be doing at COM. You can see more tips here.