Answered By: Reference Librarian
Last Updated: May 14, 2019     Views: 10

First, you’ll need to select a broad topic to research. For information on how this is done, see this FAQ entry.


Once you have chosen a topic, you’re ready to start gathering background information. This will not only provide necessary introductory information, but will also help you narrow your focus to something manageable.


Instead of using a web source like Wikipedia, you can find authoritative information in one of the online reference collections offered by the MCC Library:

You could also search the MCC Library Catalog for a book (or an eBook) on your topic.


Remember, if your topic is too narrow, you may have issues finding enough information. If your topic is too broad, you’ll have issues constructing a meaningful thesis.


Once you’ve chosen a specific focus, you can start forming your research question, or the question that will guide your research efforts.  As your research progresses and your knowledge grows, it is likely that your research question will evolve. The key terms from your research question can be used to create searches in library databases. Try using synonyms for your search, or consult the database's list of Subject Terms .


A research question is for your personal use as a researcher. As you write, it will help to have a clear goal in mind. It doesn’t need to be included in your paper, but you can use it to create a thesis statement. Ideally, your thesis statement should answer your research question.

Here is an example of the process:

  • Broad topic: Sugar consumption
  • Essay focus: Regulation of sugar consumption
  • Research question: Do soda taxes have a positive impact on public health?
  • Keywords: “soda tax” AND “public health”
  • Thesis statement: Soda taxes have the potential to reduce overall sugar consumption, but these efforts are too limited in scope to profoundly impact public health on their own.


For additional assistance, contact the MCC Library Reference Desk.

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