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Online Guide to Writing and Research

The Research Process

Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Survey the Literature

After you have decided on a topic that you want to learn more about, you need to review the literature that has been written about your topic.  This is called performing a literature review.  

If you are a UMGC student, you could look at OneSearch, for example, and see what you find out about your topic.  If you are not a UMGC student, then you can use your local library catalog, or you could do an internet search with your topic terms in Google and see what you might find.  This is a learning and discovering time.  

Steps for Surveying the Literature

Review the literature: Take a few hours or an evening to investigate the library for journals, scholarly books, and publications from credible sources to give you a general sense of the topic.  When you are researching and finding resources, you are answering the question of how to review literature. 

Make sure to keep a list of the resources that you find useful.  This preliminary research will prepare you to frame your research question.

Weed out sources: This is where you determine if the sources that you found will help your writing or if you need to “weed” out or remove any that are not helpful to you.   

Refine your topic: This is where you determine if you need to reframe your topic to utilize all of the sources that you found when digging in to your topic.  In this part of the process, you are answering the question of why we do literature reviews in the first place.  When you refine and make your topic more detailed and concise, you will have an easier time when sitting down and writing your paper.  

Formal Writing Habits

Key Takeaways

  • This process, like writing in general, is recursive. 
  • You may need to survey the literature a few more times as you begin writing your paper.


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Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing