Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Survey the Literature

To find an area of interest, survey and review the subject matter for some sense of the boundaries and the territory. Called a literature review, this step has three phases:

  1. Review the literature: Take a few hours or an evening to investigate the library or web for magazines and journals, textbooks, and even an encyclopedia article to give you a general sense of the topic.

  2. Weed out topics: This literature review can help you weed out topics that are unlikely to yield information for your research.

  3. Narrow and refine the topic: You will discover whether your inquiry and interest have any merit and whether your research will be productive.

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. Be sure to keep a list of the titles you found useful. This preliminary research and overview will prepare you to frame your research question.


Student Services: 1616 McCormick Drive, Largo, MD 20774
Mailing Address: 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783

Copyright © 2011 University of Maryland University College (UMUC). All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder.

All links to external sites were verified at the time of publication. UMUC is not responsible for the validity or integrity of information located at external sites.