Skip to Main Content

Information Literacy for TESU Students

Information Literacy for TESU Students

Starting Your Research

There are many different approaches to writing a research paper available for you to consider. Here are two:


The Purdue Online Writing Lab from Purdue University has an excellent guide
to writing research papers. Among the topics that they cover are:

  • Writing a Research Paper
  • Genre and the Research Paper
  • Choosing a Topic
  • Identifying Audience
  • Where Do I Begin

The Where Do I Begin section may be of particular interest if it's been a while
since you've written a research paper, as it walks your through the process of writing a research paper simply and clearly.


The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, suggests that there are eight stages:

  • Discovering, Narrowing, and Focusing a Researchable Topic
  • Finding, Selecting, and Reading Sources
  • Grouping, Sequencing, and Documenting Information
  • Writing an Outline and a Prospectus for Yourself
  • Writing the Introduction
  • Writing the Body
  • Writing the Conclusion
  • Revising the Final Draft

These approaches may seem somewhat different, but their intent is the same: providing students with a clear pathway to a better research paper. Find out which way works better for you, and stick with it.

Formulating Your Plan of Attack

1. Familiarize yourself with your topic
Search general reference resources to familiarize yourself with your topic.

There are a number of databases available to you through the New Jersey State Library. Often, when starting a research paper or project, it's wise to do a general search to familiarize yourself with your topic; in those instances, online access to general reference titles like encyclopedias can prove useful.

If you click on this link, you'll find a list of reference titles, including Oxford Reference, Encyclopaedia Britannica Academic Edition, and Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia.

It's important to note that if you are accessing these materials from outside the library, you'll need to enter your NJSL library barcode number - the whole thing, with no spaces - in order to do so.

2. Broaden your search with a general database
Search databases that provide a broad range of academic research.

After finding a focus for your topic through general reference titles, you may consider searching databases like Academic Search Complete, which offer access to a very broad range of academic research. These more general databases can be a good place to start, as they allow you to get a sense of how much research is available for your topic - too much can sometimes make choosing what to include in your paper difficult, but too little can make writing your paper impossible. Knowing how much research is available at your paper's onset allows you the time to change your topic, if necessary.

3. Search specialized databases
    Search specialized databases for research tailored to your topic.

At this point, you may consider searching through a more specialized database for research that is more specifically tailored to your interests and concerns. For example, nursing students would want to check out CINAHL Complete or OVID Nursing Full Text Plus.

You can find a list of subject specific databases here; just use the dropdown menu next to "By Subject" to find the subject area of your choice.

Remember that depending on the amount of research you find, you may need to refine and/or change your topic, and start the process all over again. Writing a research paper isn't necessarily a linear path; you may need to revisit certain steps in the process several times in order to find the information you need to support your ideas. 

Introduction to NJ State Library Resources and Services

If you're a TESU student, staff member or mentor who wants to brush up on services available through the New Jersey State Library, this webinar will guide you through our resources.  Below the webinar is a PowerPoint presentation with live links to resources on our website.  


Brainstorming and Concept Mapping

The following video, produced by Penn State University Libraries, is an introduction to the concept of mind mapping and brainstorming for a research paper topic. 

Psulibs. (2013, January 17) How to Create a Concept Map. [Video file]. retrieved from:

Copyright © New Jersey State Library 1796-2020