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New to NYU Libraries: How do I get started on a research paper?

A basic guide to NYU Libraries' services for new NYU students.

General Research Tips

Start your research early. 

Make sure your professor approves your topic!

Read actively and critically.

Write as you go. 

Think about your sources and evaluate them thoroughly.  Peer-reviewed sources are generally more reliable. See box on right for more on peer-review.

Ask your librarian for help navigating collections.

NYU's Writing Center is a place where any NYU student can get help with writing.

Document your sources carefully.  RefWorks, a citation management software program, can save you time and effort! It is available for free for NYU students. The Library also provides access to Zotero, which is a comparable tool with its own strengths and weaknesses. A comparison guide is available to help figure out which tool is best for you.

This is my first college research paper. How do I choose a topic?

The time has come. You can’t avoid it any longer. You are going to have to write a paper. How do you get from this realization to the finished product?

First, unless your instructor assigns a specific topic, you’ll need to think of one. This is often the toughest—and the most crucial—part of the process. Fortunately, the library can help!  By following this series of steps, you can figure out your topic and be handing in that paper before you know it.

Click the links for details on each step:

1. Explore ideas for potential topics.

2. Ask a specific question about the topic you've chosen.

3. Make lists of keywords relating to your topic.

4. Use reference sources to help you refine your topic.

5. Determine what kinds of scholars and experts would be interested in your topic.

6. Based on the evidence you've collected, answer your research question with a clear statement.

The Peer Review Process

The peer-review process is the system by which much scholarly work is judged for quality and strength. Here is a great video created by the North Carolina State University Library that lays out the basics of peer review.

When should I ask for help?

We encourage you to ask us for help whenever you need it! 

If at any point in your research process you start to feel stumped, don’t feel stumped alone. You don’t have to wait until you have a topic all decided; you can get help even when you’re trying to think of a topic. Come talk to us, send us a text or e-mail,  IM us, or make an appointment.

You don’t need to worry that you're wasting our time, or that your question is too basic.  This is what the library and its staff are here for - so don’t hesitate. 

Ask A Librarian.