So, you have to do a research project and have
no idea where to begin....  

Here's some help.

As always, Mrs. Dolson is always available for more personalized assistance.

To start off, a great general resource is the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Choosing a topic

Developing a thesis statement

Conducting Research: Books

Conducting Research: Databases

Conducting Research: Elsewhere

Taking Notes on Research

Avoiding Plagiarism

Writing Formats


Dictionaries & Thesauri

Writer's Block


Choosing a topic:

Deciding on a topic for your paper is a crucial step, don't underestimate this part. Here you will want to find some general sources to find background information. You may want to look at encyclopedias, both on the shelf at the library and online. As you explore, take brief notes about the topic, including related and subtopics, opposing viewpoints, names of experts in the field, etc. Also keep an eye out for alternative words to describe your topic, these will become keywords for your more in-depth research.
Also assess the breadth of your topic. A very broad topic will lead you to way too many sources and ultimately a rambling paper. A very narrow topic, on the other hand, will be difficult to find resources for and may not offer enough material to discuss in a paper. Look for a happy medium.

Remember to keep track of the sources you look at, right from the start. Get in the habit of citing all sources, including images, charts, tweets, lyrics, etc. It's always better to over-cite than under-cite. Actually, there is no such thing as "over-citing". If in doubt, cite it.


Pre-writing (OWL) - Great ideas for brainstorming about a topic.


Developing a Thesis Statement

According to a thesis statement is defined as:

"a short statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, etc., and is developed, supported, and explained in the text by means of examples and evidence."

It is tricky to create such a succinct description of your topic, but it's important. As you go through the process of researching and writing your paper, refer back to the thesis statement to make sure you are on target.

John McGarvey, an AP History teacher in California, created this Thesis Statement Creator that can provide a starting point.  It will give you a rough draft, make sure you edit it to fit your needs.

Tips for Developing a thesis statement (OWL) 


Conducting research - Books

The first place you should look for books is, of course, the BHS School Library.  Visit *our catalog* and ask Mrs. Dolson to help you find the books you need.  

Your next stop will be the Bernardsville Public Library, right around the corner.  With your library card, you can request a book directly from their catalog and it will be waiting for you at the front desk!  (If you don't have a library card, see Mrs. Dolson.  You can also get one in person by showing your BHS ID card.)

Now, if neither BHS or BVPL has what you need, you can request a specific book via interlibrary loan from any library in NJ.  Using JerseyCat via BVPL, you enter the specific name of the book you want.  The system will search NJ catalogs, and spit out the book you want.  Click "Request this item," enter your contact information and the staff at BVPL will get it for you!  

As always, Mrs. Dolson is happy to assist you with any of these steps.  JerseyCat can be a bit confusing, so do not hesitate to ask!




Conducting research - Databases


Conducting research - Elsewhere *******************************

Taking good notes on your research

This is where a lot of the learning happens, when you carefully read your sources and take notes.  Taking notes is the first step in avoiding plagiarism. Do not copy and paste into your notes. Use keywords and write in your own words. You may take notes on the computer or using a special app, but studies have shown that taking notes by hand via pen & paper is much more effective for actually *learning* the material.  Here are some ideas and guides on taking notes. Use this note-taking template on Google docs. Open and make a copy for your own use. Feel free to print it out for handwriting or use it online. The boxes will expand as you write.

Reverse Outlining (OWL) is an excellent way to take notes on the resources you find!

EasyBib - Taking notes  

Great ways to take notes, from Empire State College


Avoiding Plagiarism

Strategies for Fair Use (OWL)

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing (OWL)

Safe Practices (OWL)

Paraphrasing, Patchwriting, Direct Quotes (Easybib)


Writing Formats

MLA: Purdue OWL

APA: Purdue OWL

******************************* Grammar

Writer's Workshop Grammar Handbook (UC Urbana-Champaign)

English Grammar Guide from Education First

Grammar: Purdue OWL


Online Dictionaries and Thesauri

Macmillan Dictionary

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Merriam-Webster Thesaurus


What happens if you get writer’s block?

Symptoms & Cures for writer’s block (OWL) How to Overcome Writer’s Block: 14 Tricks that work
Seven Ways to Overcome Writer's Block (From PurdueGlobal)

******************************* Proofreading Strategies for Proofreading (OWL) *******************************

Email me at [email protected] for more information!