Writing a Research Paper

Use this guide to help you write your paper.

Library Research Guide

Identify Information Gaps

When developing your topic, you'll probably find that you have a lot of questions. It's important to identify information gaps that may exist when you set out to focus your topic. 

In Carlock's book Developing Information Literacy Skills, she encourages students to ask the following questions when identifying such gaps:

  • What do I know?
  • What do I not know?
  • What would I like to know?

Carlock advises students to identify information gaps, or what you don't yet know, in the form of questions using how, who, when, where, what, and why. For example, if you've chosen social media as your topic, try asking yourself some questions that will help you identify those gaps. Try creating columns to illustrate what you do and do not know about your topic. 

What I don't knowbooks in front of a brick wall

  • What are the common ways children engage with social media?
  • What kind of mental health effects exist when children engage with social media?
  • Where are health practitioners seeing the most concern when it comes to children's mental health and social media--boys, girls, nonbinary or transgender children, etc? 

What do you know about your topic? What do you think you need to know? What have others said? 

What I do know/what I think I need to know/what have others said

  • I know that mental health is a huge concern for the k-12 set, especially post-pandemic. 
  • I saw on the news recently that social media is a huge contributing factor in the children's mental health crisis. 

You might have a long list of items under each column. That's OK! Asking yourself these types of questions will help you identify areas of focus and help you narrow your topic to something that's more manageable. 

Create a Mind Map

Mind mapping is a tool you can use to develop a research question or topic you want to explore in greater depth. For example, after creating a mind map about genetically modified foods, you might ask:

  • Does eating commonly modified foods create adverse health effects?
  • Are genetically modified foods important in expanding the world's food supply?

After doing more research on your topic, your thesis statement will help you talk about specific points you're exploring in your paper. 


Mind map for genetically modified foods 

Mind map created with bubbl.us

There are many mind map tools out there on the internet. Below are a few of those tools that have a free version--all free versions will have some use limitations. 

Select Your Topic

Watch this K-State Libraries video (4:34) for help choosing your topic.

Video transcript

Developing a Research Topic (K-State LibrariesCC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Find Background Information

Databases, reference books, encyclopedias, handbooks, almanacs, and certain websites are all good starting points for finding background information, and can also help you narrow your topic. 

Develop Your Thesis Statement

Use the following sources to help you write your thesis statement: