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FYW 100 - First Year Writing (General)

Background Info on your Topics

Choosing a Research Topic

1. Choose a topic. Make sure the professor approves of the topic you have chosen. 

2. Turn your topic into a research question. To help formulate your research question, ask yourself:

  •       What do you already know about the topic?
  •      What you do you want to know about the topic?

3. Start with the Reference Collection. Reference books, especially subject encyclopedias, provide a quick overview of a topic and are very useful for developing a working list of key terms, dates, names, resources for further research. Search the reference collections listed in the boxes to the right and left ion this page to find general  information on your topic.

5.  Books.  Books offer an in-depth look at a topic. Many books take years of research to write and can provide detailed insight and analysis. Books can place your topic in a historical context and give you key background information for your research. Look for books by keyword in the Library Catalog.

6. Journal Articles.  Journal articles can also give an in-depth look at a topic. However because they are so much shorter than books, they can't really provided the detail or historical context that books do. The biggest advantage to journal articles is their timeliness. Look for articles in the databases in the A-Z list.

7. Choose keywords from your research question.  Keywords are usually the main concepts in your research question.  Write down the possible keywords before you get started.

8. Only use the important terms of your topic (e.g. if your topic is The effect of computer use on memory, "effect" is not an important term - (neither are of, use, or on). Computer(s) and Memory are the terms to search.

9. Find synonyms for your keywords.  Some authors write about the "elderly," others write about the "aged."  Synonyms give you more options for search terms. Synonyms for memory include "recall"  or  "short term" or "long term" memory.  

10. Start searching! Use your keywords and synonyms as search terms in databases and book catalogs.

Look at the pages about Find Books and Find Journal Articles in this Guide for more detailed instructions. 

Always see a Reference Librarian if you need assistance.