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Define Your Topic
Getting started can sometimes feel like the most difficult part of the research process. Help define your topic by asking questions:
- What is my assignment?
- Is it an opinion paper?
- Is it an overview of a topic?
- Is it a report or analysis?
- Is my topic limited in any way by:
- A specific time period?
- Geographic location?
- A segment of the population?
- Would background information be helpful?
- Encyclopedias help provide perspective on a topic or concept. Subject encyclopedias help define a topic, provide a timeline of events, identify people associated with the topic, and supply good keywords to use later when searching for books or articles.
- What words or terms best describe my topic? Are there synonyms for these words?
Determine the Type of Information Needed
1. What types of resources are required?
- Articles on a topic
- Articles from a specific journal
2. If articles are needed, how do I know if a publication is a scholarly journal or a popular magazine?
- Journal articles:
- Are written by experts in the field
- Are peer-reviewed
- Include reports of original research, or in-depth analysis of issues related to the field
- Use terminology and language specific to that field of study
- Are written for other researchers in the field
- Include bibliographies and extensive documentation
- Magazine articles:
- Are written by journalists and free-lance writers
- Are not peer-reviewed
- Cover current events, hot topics, popular culture
- Use non-technical language
- Are written for a broad and popular audience
- Rarely cite any sources