Drain-Jordan Library, West Virginia State University Don't Panic Page for Research Novices
library building, angled front view

Alternate Drop-Down Menu

Not Sure Where to Start

HELP! The paper/assignment's due tomorrow and I haven't started. What do I do? Where do I go? Doom and gloom, sigh...., groan, moan, Help.....

Don't panic. Sit down. Take a deep breath, then get paper and a pencil while we work out your strategy.

Look at the assignment, re-read it carefully. Is it a research paper, an essay or opinion paper, are there references to your textbook? Is there formatting information, or are there specific requirements about source materials (how many and what kind). Breath calmly, you can do this. Different papers/assignments are attacked in different ways and ten minutes of pre-planning can save you hours of work.

Yes, it would be better if you had started the assignment earlier, but that doesn't always happen. There are resources available online, but first A Plan.

1. Is this an assignment that you can answer with your textbook? If not...

2. What are you writing about. Choose your topic carefully, not too broad, not too narrow. Are you arguing pro or con about a topic. Are you trying to prove or disprove something? Jot down a few thoughts about your topic.

Time to do a "brief" investigation of the topic before you dive in. About 15-30 minutes of looking for articles (the databases) and books (Library catalog) before you settle on a topic. This is just checking on what's available. Maybe scanning a few article abstracts to see if the topic is too broad. Do you need to be more specific? Remember you are writing a paper, not a book. Are you trying to prove something, do you need evidence/fact/research?

Ready? Now go to some of the guides under "Library Services" dropdown to "User Education." At this point you should have covered "Getting Started" (picking a topic).