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Library Research Strategies: Getting Started: Topics and Sources

Select a Topic

Academic research requires several steps, and it may take some time to locate all of the information that you need. Make sure you leave yourself time to complete the assignment. Also, read your assignment carefully as soon as you receive it, and ask your instructor right away if anything is unclear to you.

Your Research Topic

Choose a research topic that interests you. Once you have thought of a topic, try stating it in the form of a question. This will help you to focus upon the aspect of the topic that you are going to research. So if you want to write about Social Networks, try asking a specific question about this topic which you find interesting, such as: "How do social networks impact poilce investigations?"

Drawing a Blank?!

Here are some places to look for topic ideas:

CQ Researcher is a database that provides unbiased, comprehensive reporting and analysis on issues in the news.
A portal of “pro” and “con” information about current topics. 

Appropriate Sources

What Information Sources Should you Use?

Determine the type of information you need to investigate your topic fully. This may require a little thought about how information is produced and managed:

As you can see from the timeline, if you are researching a very recent event, it may not yet be written of in a book.

Finding Background Information

Starting with an overview of your topic from a general source such as an encyclopedia can help you to find background information, key words, and often a list of books and articles for further reading. You can also turn to Wikipedia for background information.

The Reference Collection

In the reference area on the First Floor of the Morris Library, there are numerous dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other resources that can help you to find overview information about your topic.  

Online Reference Databases

CREDO Reference - This collection of both general and subject specific online reference books is helpful in providing background information on a wide variety of topics.

Knovel Library Collections - Full text electronic manuals, handbooks and other reference texts on the topics of science and technology, including Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, Earth Sciences, Environment & Environmental Engineering, Industrial Engineering & Operations Management, and Mechanics & Mechanical Engineering.

Subject Guide

Meg Grotti's picture
Meg Grotti
Assistant Head of Instructional Services, Reference and Instructional Services Department
(302) 831-6310

Subjects: Education
Psychological and Brain Sciences
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