The first step in the research process is to closely examine your assignment to determine what your professor is looking for and what guidelines he/she has given you for the assignment. You should look for:
- Topic: Has the professor given you a specific topic to write about, or can you select a subject that you are interested in within the scope of the course?
- Type of Research: Does the assignment require secondary research (the interpretation of research that has been previously published in books or journal articles) or does it involve original research (such as a survey or experiment you must conduct)?
- Scope: Does your professor want you to analyze a topic from different viewpoints, or do you need to take one position and defend it?
- Sources: Are you required to use a certain number and/or type or sources (books, popular articles, newspapers, scholarly articles, internet) in your research?
- Length: Has the professor set a page or word limit on the paper, or time limit on an oral presentation?
- Format: Has the professor given any guidelines regarding the layout of the paper, such as line spacing or use of page numbers?
- Citation style: Has the professor specified a citation style for you to use in citing your sources? If not, which style is appropriate for your subject?
- Due date: When is your paper due? Do you have enough time to obtain all the materials you will need?