Library Research: A Step-By-Step Guide

Use this guide to learn more about the research process

Understanding your assignment

Make sure you know all of the basic requirements

(especially those related to research!)

As your instructor assigns you a research assignment, the first thing you will want to do is take note of all the elements related to the research process. 

Look for the following elements of your assignment: 

Type of Essay 

Persuasive, Informative...

Scope of Topics 

Can you choose your own topic, or choose from a focused area of study?

Citation Style 

APA, MLA or Chicago?

Length of Essay 

This can help determine both the scope of your topic and your research

Number of Sources 

Your instructor may require a set range of research sources and/or require a set number of sources of different types

Required Source Types 

Use of library databases, books, peer-reviewed journal articles

Important Deadlines 

When is the final assignment due? Is there a rough draft? Do you need to choose a topic by a specific date?

Start your research early!

Your assignment will be uniquely created by your instructor and may or may not include elements listed above. Consult with your instructor for clarification concerning the required elements of your essay. 

Knowing your assignment’s requirements will help keep you focused throughout the research process. 

Annotate your assignment instructions

Annotate your Assignment

Don't be afraid to mark up your assignment instructions. Highlight, underline or circle key information to refer back to. Take notes on the assignment instructions. Did your instructor explain the assignment more thoroughly in class? Did they clarify some of the requirements? Did they make additional comments about their expectations for the assignment? 

Examples for how to decipher a research assignment:

Stay organzied

Save time and stress by keeping your project organized

  • Keep your research together! (photocopies, files, emails, print outs)
  • NoodleTools can help keep your project organized
  • Be aware of what's required for your citation style (title, author, publisher, page number, publication date, database name, URL, DOI, etc...)

More about citation styles

Not sure what you'll need to create the citations for your research sources?

Check out your citation style guide: