Research Help


General Research and Writing Help

Successfully Completing Research Assignments

Select and Focus Your Topic

Every class is different. Your instructor may have given you a very specific topic to work with or you could have free reign to make up your own topic from a very general area. In any case, figuring out exactly what you’re going to focus on can be a little tricky sometimes. The following links give you some guidelines on how to select and focus your topic.

This tutorial gives a very brief introduction about how to narrow a very general topic to a specific one:

Modules 1-3 of this tutorial provide useful advice about picking a topic and starting a search:

Write Working (Preliminary) Thesis

A thesis is a short statement that should capture the main idea or argument of your paper. This sounds pretty easy, but creating a clearly-written thesis takes some time and energy. A working thesis ( which can also be called a preliminary thesis) will help define where you want to go with your paper, and you can revise this thesis as you continue your research and writing. Some useful links for developing working and final thesis statements:

This site includes information about thesis statements and an interactive exercise where you can analyze your own thesis statement:

Plan Your Research Strategy

Everyone chooses to research a little differently, but basically, an effective research strategy can be summed up in two main tasks:

Identifying Terms on Which to Build Your Search

Find, Review, and Evaluate Books

At WTC, you can find books two ways:

  1. Locate books in the library with our online catalog
  2. Access thousands of e-books through NetLibrary, one of our databases

Find, Review, and Evaluate Journal/Magazine/Newspaper Articles

Test your knowledge of the differences between journals, magazines, and newspapers with this game show style game! (You may need to wait a few moments for it to load).

Revise & Rewrite

Concise checklist and revision strategies:

This site explains 12 common mistakes people make in essays and how to avoid them when you revise!

Warning signs of a rushed paper:

Put paper in final form

These tools and tutorials can help your citations and bibliography. However, to make sure that your citations are correct, it’s a good idea to check or refer to the style guide that your instructor is using. Style guides tell you how to format and your paper and references. There are several major style guides, each with different rules. Two of the most common ones are:

Free Online Citation Tools

Follow the directions on these sites for assistance with citing your sources. Remember that it’s always smart to double check the appropriate manual!

Research Sites for Speeches