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Research Process by GS 113 students: Getting Started & Narrowing Your Topic

Getting Started

Outline for how to begin the research process:

Given/Selected a broad topic for a research paper.

  • In our G S 113 class, we were assigned a broad topic, by Professor Ours, about the internet and education.

Next, you should write down what you already know about the assigned topic.

  • We had a class discussion to figure out what we knew and what we needed to research further about the internet and education.

After, to add to what you already know, use reference sources, text books, and your professor to further delve into your research topic.

  • We used Credo, Reference Universe, as well as our professor in addition to what we knew about the internet and education. Using these reference sources greatly improved our knowledge of the research topic.

Narrow your broad topic with research you found.

  • In order to narrow our topic, we used a tool called a topic grid. The first grid presented shows how we narrowed our broad topic.
    • Looking through the literature we had already gathered, we realized our first research question was still too broad and further literature research would be necessary to narrow our research topic and question.
  • Our first topic grid:
    • Broad topic: The internet and education
      Restricted topic: Online education or learning
      Narrowed topic: College or upper level online education learning
      Research question: How does online learning affect undergraduate college learning interaction?

  • After further literature research, we were able to focus and revise our research question in our second grid so that it would be more applicable to the new literature we collected. You should notice that our revised research question is much more detailed compared to our first research question. The attention to detail when coming up with your research topic and question is vital to being successful in your literature source process.
    • Broad topic: The internet and education
      Restricted topic: Online education
      Narrowed topic: Interaction or communication in online education
      Revised research question: What methods of online interaction between professors and students have proven to be most effective in improving student learning?


  • Finally, you should identify what problems or issues that may be related to your topic. Use the research data you collect as a tool to try to solve the problem or issue you want to address in your paper.


Try Starting Your Research Here

The Library offers a great tool for finding the background information you need to begin your research for paper or presentation.



Credo Reference is an easy-to-use tool for research projects and homework. Search in hundreds of encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri, quotations, and subject-specific titles, as well as 200,000+ images and audio files, and nearly 100 videos.