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New Mexico State University

Sample Research Assignment

Day 1. Browse for a topic:

Select one topic from each of these resources. You should have 7 possible topics. Pick 2 topics, and write a few sentences to explain why you think each one is important.

Day 2. Get background info:

Get up to date and find out the basics:

  • NY Times. Some questions are pretty much settled, so they will not make for good research. . NYT is set to search only the last 6 months, but can be expanded to search the past 10 years and more..

Use general databases to fill out the picture:

  • Select 10 articles. Use all 3 databases listed above.
  • Make sure they are on the same topic
  • Cut and paste the citations into a working bibliography
  • For each citation, note the database used
  • You may be asked to read these articles, so you may want to bookmark or else print them
Day 3. Refine your search and develop bibliogrpahy:

(The instructor returns topic papers to students.)

Library Instruction Session - try to refine your search and develop your working bibliography to correct any deficiencies noted by your instructor:

  • Relevance
  • Scholarliness
  • Recency

Does the library have sufficient resources? You will be very unhappy later if you have to start over for want of books, articles, etc.

Search the library catalog to see what books are available.

Ask a reference librarian if in doubt.

  • From the library catalog search results, cut and paste the 5 most promising citations. Make sure they are on the same subject as your articles.
  • Find a Reference book article on your subject. Copy the article, read and mark it, and hand it in.
Day 4.

(You have recieved the instructor's comments on the working bibliography of articles.)


Using the articles that the instructor has approved:

  • Print and read the articles, marking them as you go
  • Write notes in the margin to explain your thinking
  • On a separate page, write a thesis statement. The thesis should be a claim that you can make intellectual progress on. It should be something that there is presently disagreement or misunderstanding about-- not an obvious claim. But you should also be able to give good reasons for thinking about it in a certain way, even while you acknowledge arguments on the other side.
  • Hand in the marked articles, with your thesis statement on top.
Day 5.

Organize your quotes (evidence for and against a claim):

  • Place your materials in order of presentation, under subject headings
  • Use the notes you have written in the margins of your readings to start your text
Day 6.

Free writing exercise. You've been thinking about this topic for days. Now comes the time to say everything you possibly can in a first draft. One method is to simply free write. You could make it a letter to your professor telling him or her everything you know on the subject.

Day 7.
  • Incorporate quotes and a bibliography
  • Print a clean copy doublespaced
  • Revise your copy by marking up with pen
  • Note any problems, such as gaps in your reasoning, needs for more resources, etc.

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