Find background information about your topic. This is where Wikipedia and Google are helpful. Textbooks and course materials are also a good place to find background information. The more you read, the easier it will be to find the right information. Looking up background information can help you form keywords and gives you an idea of what is being talked about in your topic.
Research is a process. Research is not just about finding things that support your argument, is is also about finding out what is being said about your topic. As you do research you will find more information that might lead to more questions or ideas. Taking the time to explore these will make your paper better.
Tip! If you are having a hard time starting, start with a basic search about your topic and read some of the articles and find something that interest you. Often you will find inspiration by reading what others have written.
Tip! There is not one article that is going to say everything you want it to, but there are going to be some that support what your are trying to say, and it may be a small part of the whole article. You may need to synthesis/cite/ borrow from multiple article to support your position.
Example: I want to talk about the role women have in households in rural Nicaragua, but I can only find an article that talks about birthing at home without the aid of medical care. This article explains that one of the reasons for this is mistreatment by male medical staff and that many women lack the voice to report mistreatment. While this does not directly talk about women's role in the household, it does give us an understanding of how women are treated in society. You may need to use the arguments of many articles to build your own.
Unlike Google, most academic databases do not search phrases or whole questions. When using databases you will need to narrow your research concepts down to "search" or "key" words.
Key words are words that describe a concept or idea on their own. For example if we were looking for information about a area of land that has low precipitation and a hot climate the key word work might be desert. Combining them together helps us to link concepts in our searches.
Research Concept: I am interested in the way water is used and distributed in rural Nicaragua.
Questions that can help you define you research goals:
Writing down your thoughts and talking to someone else about what you are thinking about can be really helpful. Answering these questions can help you define what information you are looking for and where you might find it.
Tip: You want you research to help define your paper, but it helps to have an idea of what you are trying to say. Example: Water in Nicaragua. Are we talking about urban or rural water, drinking or agricultural, poetency or use?