COR 110 Parsley: Step 1: Identify the Information You Need

STEP 1: Identify Information You Need

This section contains information on the following:


noun_man_fail_to_understand_blueprint_1930799.pngUnderstand the Assignment

Before you move forward with your research assignment, you need to FIRST understand what is exactly required of you by your teacher for this assignment.

Listed below are some questions you can ask yourself when beginning any research assignment:

1. What is the topic for this assignment?

  • Is the topic already provided or do I have to develop my own?
  • Is the prescribed topic broad or narrow?
    • If you choose a topic that is erudite or obscure, factor in additional time for locating resources or research in the field. Likewise, if you choose a broad topic it may be impossible to narrow down to a manageable length. "Sports", for example, is a vast topic--one that could quickly overwhelm you.
  • What subject do I have to develop my topic around?  
  • What am I interested in around this subject area and is it consistent with the assignment?
  • What do I know about this topic and what do I want to know? 
  • Do I understand the language being used to describe the topic or subject? (If not, look up the language before moving on)

2. What kind of sources am I required to use?

  • Do the sources have to be peer reviewed?
  • Am I required to find sources from a specific resource?
  • Is there a required number, or limit, on how many sources I must use?
  • Do my sources have to be a specific length?
  • Do the sources have to be published within a certain time period?

3. Where can I find this information?

  • Do I have to use sources found in the Corette Library?
  • Can I use the internet, i.e. search engines, to find sources as well?
  • Is there a professional group or association that would have this particular information (e.g. American Psychological Association, American Nurses Association)?

4. How long is your paper?

  • You should not select a broad topic if your paper is short as you will not have the space to thoroughly discuss it. Example: It is unlikely that you will be able to write about the differences between the religion of Islam and Christianity in a 5 page paper.


Web resources for ideas for Assignment 2 topics: 


Brainstorming Techniques

Once you fully understand your assignment and your faculty's expectations, you can now proceed with developing your topic. 

Listed below are are few brainstorming techniques you can use to expand your understanding of your topic and narrow it for research.


Idea List:

In this technique, you jot down lists of words or phrases under a particular topic. You can base your list on:

  • the general topic
  • one or more words from your particular thesis claim
  • a word or idea that is the complete opposite of your original word or idea.

You may have multiple lists that cover a different parts of your project, from your thesis to various arguments or points you are covering. Using multiple lists will help you to gather more perspective on the topic and ensure that your thesis is well-supported by your arguments and enough evidence/sources.

Example of bulleted list:


Cluster or Concept Mapping:

This type of diagram represents some sort of cloud of ideas or objects that are related and positioned strategically together. The diagram is non-linear way to organize information/details of one central idea. 

Concept mapping can be used to help narrow your topic.


For more information on how to use the concept mapping method, check out BYU's detailed instructions here.

Tree Diagram:

This technique, like concept mapping, helps you organize your ideas visually and connect details or ideas to your main topic. The second tree diagram presented below shows how to use this strategy through the questioning method. 

Tree Diagrams can be used in the initial brainstorming phase or after you have selected your topic, to help you lay out the information your project or paper could cover, breaking down your supporting ideas (SI in the image below) into finer and finer levels of detail. You may end up excluding some details once you start writing, depending on the length and purpose of your assignment.




Blind or Free Writing:

This is a useful technique for whenever you are drawing an absolute blank.  Set aside a short, targeted time limit (10-15 minutes) and begin writing.  Even if you don't know what to write about, just write something down -- anything down!; it could even be unrelated to the topic. This technique forces you to put something on paper in hopes of triggering an idea.

For more information on this technique, check out MIT's Global Studies and Languages page


This technique is a form of deduction that allows you to approach the topic from six different directions or perspectives. It gives you a broader awareness of the topic’s complexities, if not a more refined focus on what you will do with it.

Take a sheet of paper, consider your topic, and respond to these six commands:

  1. Describe it.
  2. Compare it.
  3. Associate it.
  4. Analyze it.
  5. Apply it.
  6. Argue for and against it

Look over what you’ve written. Do any of the responses suggest anything new about your topic? What interactions do you notice among the different perspectives: are there repeating patterns, or does a larger theme emerge you could use to approach the topic or draft a thesis? Does one perspective seem particularly helpful in getting your inspiring ideas on your end and could that help you draft your thesis statement? 


Preliminary Research: the Research BEFORE you research

noun_research_3011416.pngIn order to effectively search, identify and discuss scholarly resources for your assignment, you are going to need to know enough of your topic ahead of time. Enter preliminary research.

At this point, you are working to understand your topic -- you should be able to give someone else a brief overview -- and the issues surrounding it. Preliminary research will also allow you to discern whether there is enough available information that meets your needs, and will set the context of your research; you may find it necessary to adjust the focus of your topic in light of the resources available to you.

noun_starting_1512103.pngReference resources are meant to be great starting points for learning about your topic and gathering relevant background information as preliminary research.  

  • Encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs and handbooks can be valuable tools, especially if they are subject-specific. 
  • Although Wikipedia should not be used as a final resource, it can be a useful jumping-off spot for determining the scope of a topic or broad background. Additionally, there are often links and bibliographic citations in Wikipedia that can be helpful in referring you to more authoritative, trustworthy resources. 

noun_web_3213049.pngYou can also use Google or other web search engines.​ If you use web resources, you want to ensure you are closely evaluating your information, which is an essential step as part of the research process. Not all information is created equal. ​

Find out more about evaluating web resources in Step 4 - Evaluating Information - 5-Using Website Resources


Narrowing a Topic and Developing a Research Question

The following handout from Indiana University Bloomington will help you move from a topic into a research question. 


noun_tutorial_2366975.pngWatch this 3 minute video below to be better informed about the research process and strategies for selecting a topic.


Page Credits

Columbia Southern University. "Develop a topic." How to do research. Mar. 20, 2020,

Gallaudet University. "Pre-Writing Strategies." Tutorial & Instrucional Programs.

Gallaudet University. "Sample of a Tree Diagram." Tutorial & Instrucional Programs.

NC State University Libraries. "Picking Your Topic IS Research!" YouTube, 1 May 2014,