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Process: Get Started


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Research is like an exploration -- it helps us learn, understand, and contribute to our world.  Because the experience often includes unexpected twists and turns, try to remain open, curious, and persistent. Let’s get started. To begin your critical inquiry, you will identify an issue, a topic, and  a set of questions about which you are curious.

A Few Simple Steps


Choose Your Topic of Inquiry

Inquiry is a process of posing questions, seeking perspectives, and building knowledge. The first step is to identify a topic or issue that matters to you. You may start with a very broad and open area of interest. 

Mountain Top By Alice Noir for the Noun ProjectTip:  Many of us start with a very broad question in mind. Try these steps to narrow:

  • Review textbooks from your favorite classes
  • Scan newspapers and magazines
  • Browse online media
  • Browse background sources

Impact of social media on our lives



Establish Your Topic Knowledge  

Brainstorm key aspects of your topic: who, what, where, when, why, how. List what you already know about your topic. List what you need to know about your topic. 

What does [key concept related to my topic] mean?  

What are the facts about  [my topic]?

What are the various features of  [my topic]?  

What are the component parts of  [my topic]?  

What are the types of  [my topic]?

What is the present status of  [my topic]?

What are the causes of  [my topic]?  

What are the consequences of  [my topic]? 

How is  [my topic] like or unlike [related concept]?  

How is  [my topic] made or done?  

How did  [my topic] happen?

When and where did  [my topic] happen?

Who cares about [my topic]?

Why does [my topic] matter now?

Mountain Top By Alice Noir for the Noun Project


Tip: Try mind mapping or other brainstorming strategies





 View sample mindmap



Do Some Background Research & Reading  

Read encyclopedic or overview sources to better understand the topic

Note key terms, key events, key people, key places

Identify subtopics or related topics

Mountain Top By Alice Noir for the Noun Project


Tip: Look for cues and leads as your read. Asks questions as your read.


Recommended Background Sources

Try searching: "your topic keyword" AND encyclop*
   You may also try searching dictionary, handbook, or guide.

 Mountains by Alice Noir from the Noun Project 

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