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Research Basics

Before you Pick a Topic ...

Before you pick a topic, review your assignment for the answers to these questions.

1. How big is your project (i.e. number of pages, words, etc.)?

  • Smaller projects require a narrower focus. 

2. What types of sources are you required or encouraged to use?

  • Scholarly books and articles take time to write. Factor that into your topic choice.

3. How many sources do you need?

  • Review the bibliographies of encyclopedias to see if enough sources are available.

4. Are there any particular sections you must include in your work (i.e. history section, statistics, etc.)?

Try an Idea Generator

For topic inspiration, try an Idea Generator!

Time to pick a research topic. This can be the toughest part of your assignment. Want a little help? Tip: Try using an idea generator. Where can I find am idea generator? Use an encyclopedia! Scrolling or thumbing through the entries is a great way to find a topic. Once you find one that interests you, just keep reading to start learning about it.

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Here's what you do:

1. Use an encyclopedia.

2. Scroll or thumb through the entries for an idea.
3. When you see something interesting, start reading!

Focus your Topic

Focus your topic with Background Reading.

Wait! What if there isn’t a research starter for my topic? No research starter, no problem! Unfortunately, some of you may pick a topic that does not have a research starter. When that happens, try using some of the online encyclopedias listed on your research guide to: learn about your topic, identify keywords for searching. If you don’t find a research starter right away, it can be tempting to just dive in and look for books and articles. But, we need to warn you, skipping this steps may cause you: to have a harder time finding resources, to need more time for your research.

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Here's what you do:

1. Search for a Research Starter on your topic.

2. If there isn't one, try an online encyclopedia.

  • Subsections of the entries can help you identify a focus.
  • Read the entry to learn about the topic and identify search terms.