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Research Process Demystified @ Pitt

A guide for students beginning the research paper and project process.

Choose a topic: Understand your assignment parameters, requirements, and due dates.

  • Choose something you are interested in.

  • Start from the assignment due date and work your way back. Think about the time you will need for research, writing, editing, and allow time for questions that may arise.

  • Keep in mind your topic may change as you research and write.

  • Pick a few topics you want to explore further and then find background information and refine your topic to see if you want to continue down that path. If not, try out a different topic until you find one you like.


Conduct Background Research: Search for news articles, top hits on Google, and encyclopedia articles.

Google Tips and Tricks:

  1. Search for specific file types
  2. You can limit Google searches to particular files such as PDFs, PowerPoints, etc. This can be helpful when looking for reports, particularly by professional associations, organizations, and governments.

    Type in Google your search terms + filetype:ppt. Example search: nanotechnology market filetype:pdf

  3. Search for specific domains
  4. You can also limit results to sites with specific domains, such as .org, .edu, .mil, or .gov.

    Type in Google your search terms + Example search: nanotechnology market

  5. Search for other country's versions of Google
  6. When you search, you are searching the U.S.'s version of Google. If you know the top-level country code domain for other countries, you can search their version of Keep in mind that this will not necessarily change the language of the results you see, but will show you results Google thinks are more relevant to those in that country. This can be helpful when doing international research.

    Example: Go to (Germany's version). Search for government privacy.

Refine your Topic: Narrow down what you want to investigate. Think about the who, what, when, where, and why for your topic.