Choosing a Topic for a Research Paper or Presentation

How Long Does Research Take?

How long the research process takes varies by:

  • the nature of the assignment, how well the topic is covered in 'the literature'* (i.e., books, journals and other sources), 
  • what materials are available in our library or online, 
  • the length of time allotted for the assignment and
  • the expertise of the researcher (i.e., what you know about the topic).

Things to keep in mind:

Start early so that you can revise your strategy or your paper if necessary.Some topics will have a huge amount of material available, while some will have little. If you need background material, subject encyclopedias may give more specific detail. Conducting research normally takes longer than you expect.

Frustration and backtracking are a normal part of the process. However, reference librarians can show you strategies that can save you time and can help you do your research more effectively.

Ask at the Help Desk, through Ask-us (chat), text to 479-385-0803 or email for assistance.

You can use the Research Paper Wizard to help plan the sequence and find sources.

subject encyclopedias

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Research Paper Wizard

*This is the published material about the topic. It is not "literature" as in fiction or drama, although there is literature about the field of literature, too.