ENGL 101
English Composition I
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Decide on a topic. Occasionally your teacher will have already assigned you a topic; in this case, you are stuck and have no choice. However, if your instructor has given you some freedom, be sure to choose a topic that interests you. Nothing kills a paper faster than when the writer is bored.

At this point in the process, try to keep your topic fairly broad. You don't want to get too specific until you know there is enough information available to support your topic.It is far better at this stage to research depression in the elderly, rather than rushing into your thesis and researching whether lack of family contact causes depression in elderly patients.

Check the usual suspects: where do you usually get information? Look in the magazines and books that you have around the house. If your family gets Time or Newsweek, check there first, especially if your topic is current events or commonly discussed/written about. If your family has a computer and a CD-Rom encyclopedia, you might want to check your topic here for basic background information as well.

The Library is where formal researching begins. Once you have discovered what information is easily available, you are ready to begin more formal searching. There is a difference in the materials available at a college library as opposed to a high school library or a public library, so be sure to pick a library that best matches your writing situation. A paper for the general public will most likely have the best support from a public library. A high school library will supply the right kind of information for a high school paper. Likewise, for a college paper, you should try to use a college or university library.

The Internet is the next area to search. Most libraries will also have electronic and Internet resources available, but since these resources are also available in people's homes, I have made them a separate entry. Most people rush to the Internet quickly, because it is new and of the moment. However, a student using the Internet for research needs to understand that not all information available through the Internet is equal. There are many different ways that the information is organized, and each one has its problems and merits.

We live in a media saturated world. Research tends to bias the printed word, but don't feel that YOU have to limit yourself to just what is written. Feel free to branch out and utilize TV programs, films, videos, songs, photographs, etc. As long as they are relevant to your topic and have influenced your view, they are a legitimate, usable source.