Taking Notes

After the chaotic armchair free-for-all of the previous step, this step basically covers (1) preliminary research and then (2) some real refining of your topic.

Why do preliminary research before the real nitty-gritty stuff a couple steps away? Well, some of the functions include:

·        library familiarization: getting to know where things are and dipping your toes into the whole research pool before diving in head-first

·        fascination with a topic that you’d like to pursue further but don’t know enough about

·        examination of the available resources–even if you’re familiar with the general subject area and the library–to see how feasible delving further into the topic will prove

Preliminary research though is the first real time in the whole process where you’ll be forced to match the internal– what’s come from your mind during the previous step–with the external–the realities you’re going to be faced with. And as we mentioned in the first step, that’s what a research paper is anyway, an integration between your insights and outside sources. So now is the time to learn what you’ll actually be doing in this preliminary research step.

You are constructing a paper and no constructor, builder, or engineer can live solely in the world of wish-lists, blueprints, or pretty diagrams. Eventually you must touch real tools and visit the site of construction to see if it’s suitable for the project. Now that you’ve done that, you can make changes accordingly, which leads us into the stage of topic refining.

This is your first opportunity to scrutinize your topic by either scrapping what you have and returning to the previous step to try something else, or by honing your brainstorms and weeding out the irrelevant and/or adding missing essentials.

Once you’ve settled on a general subject area or sketchy topic, you’ll need to determine if you need refining and actually go about broadening or narrowing down your topic. Then the hunk of undeveloped marble you’ve sketched out will feel less like an unmanageable boulder and more like a sculpture you’re excited about working on.