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Beginning Your Research
Choosing a Research Topic
- Consult your instructor for feedback on your topic.
- Consult a reference librarian for feedback on your topic or for help in choosing a research topic.
- Use subject encyclopedias to locate topics relevant to the field.
- Use the databases listed on the Current Issues handout for topic ideas.
Clarifying Your Topic
- Begin with a quick search of the online catalog and databases.
- If you find too much information and/or too many sources, consider narrowing your topic. Think of a more specific idea or a certain piece of information you'd like to research. Example: Instead of searching for information on the broad topic of globalization, you might refine your search to focus on the effects of increased international trade on national security due to globalization. Your search phrase might look like: "globalization AND trade AND security."
- If you find too little information or too few sources, consider using a broader topic or finding synonyms for your search terms.
- Consult general sources like subject encyclopedias and dictionaries to obtain background information for your topic.
- Use the online catalog to search for books, journals and other resources that will determine what types of information exist on your topic.
- Try to locate subject descriptions of the books and articles you have already found to familiarize yourself with the scope of their coverage. These subject keywords can also be used to search for more sources.
- Use the bibliographies and reference lists from your sources to locate more information about your topic and determine what else has been written about it.
- Conduct Internet searches to gather overviews of your topic and biographical information about important people related to your topic. Even if you do not plan to use this information, your findings may point you to additional quality sources.
- Remember that a librarian is a resource too! They're always available to help.