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First Year Seminars: FYS 106-3 STEM

The Research Process

Plan: Choosing a Topic

Settling on a topic for your SL presentation may or may not be a daunting part of the process.

If you've already got an idea in mind, great! Go with it!

If not, here are a few resources that may help with your brainstorming. Look at what they've been publishing recently and see if anything resonates with you.

Popular Science Magazines

Focus: Finding Background Information

It's important to bring yourself up to speed on a new topic by establishing a baseline understanding. This step usually involves finding definitions for various terms and concepts, getting a general sense of the history of the issue, learning about notable researchers associated with the topic, and identifying further readings. Here are two good starting places for background information:


Google is going to be a useful tool for settling on a topic and finding some basic background information to support your research. The best thing about Google is also its biggest drawback: it searches so much information at once that it risks overwhelming you with results.

If you want to become a Google expert, try using a site search to eliminate useless noise and leave yourself with just the kinds of results you want to see. A site search tells Google to only give you results that match a specific URL or top-level domain that you specify. The syntax looks like this:

site:domain/url_whatever keywords you would normally enter

  • robot-assisted surgery will only give you college and university websites that talk about robot-assisted surgery
  • algorithm bias will only give you New York Times articles about the impacts biased algorithms have on society


Test your understanding of Google site searches by typing the syntax you would use to find the information described in each prompt.


Gale eBooks

We individually selected each of the encyclopedias and reference sources you'll find in this online database. Just use the search box to locate short encyclopedia entries on your topic. You can even use the references at the bottom of any encyclopedia entry to learn about other books or articles worth reading.



If you're just searching for books, music scores, DVDs, or music CDs in our collection, then MUSCAT Plus will be your best option. The catalog also contains all of the e-books we subscribe to, and you're able to read those anywhere at any time.

Develop: Finding Journal Articles

The library's databases can help you identify appropriate sources for your student-led discussions and group projects. You'll notice that we have nearly 300 databases and that some of them have a narrow disciplinary focus. Here are a few recommendations to help you get started:

Reading Article Abstracts

Original research articles tend to use a consistent structure when presenting information:

  • Introduction: What's been done before? What is the researchers' hypothesis?
  • Methods: Exactly what did the researchers do to test their hypothesis?
  • Results: What did they find when doing the experiment or study?
  • Discussion: What do those results mean, and why do they matter?

If you want to decide whether an article is relevant for your work without reading the whole thing, the best piece of advice is read the article's abstract (the one-paragraph summary authors write to provide an overview of what they did and what they found).


Test your understanding below by dragging each of the four article sections (Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion) onto one or more of the abstract's sentences that summarize these portions of the full paper.