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Topic Selection

An overview of topic selection, topic refinement, and resources and an introduction to resources to use to find background information.

Step 1: Get Topic Ideas

 

Start by exploring what you are interested in based on the current project at hand.  The resources below are great starting points to make simple, quick searches.

Step 2: Topic Selection and Tips for Choosing a Topic

 
  • Pick a topic that is interesting to you, so that the research will be more enjoyable.
  • Look at current magazines and newspapers to get ideas.  You will find those in GALILEO
  • Look at Reference books.  CREDO Reference is a great place to look for background information.
  • Ask your instructor for Guidance and input about your potential topics
  • Look at sources that cover topics from a variety of perspectives, like Opposing Viewpoints to find out about current events or hot-button issues.

Step 3: Refining Your Topic

 

The Five W's: Who, What, Where, When and Why?

Who: person, or population you are researching

What: aspect or element that relates to to the topic

When: time frame, that you might use to limit your research

Where: geographic location if important

Why: Reason why research is meaningful or important, this will help you determine your scope.

Ask yourself questions about your topic using the 5W's method in order to refine your topic, and generate a list of possible keywords.

Step 4: Get Background Information

 
  • Background information helps you to verify information like names, dates, events, or terms associated with a topic.
  • It can help you to rethink or re-examine your topic by providing additional information, that you may be unfamiliar with.
  • They may include bibliographies, which will lead you towards additional sources about your topic.  

Background information can be found in:


Search for books about your topic:

Browse online encyclopedias:

Step 5: Finding the Right Keywords

 

Library Lingo

 

Boolean operators: Simple words like AND and OR that tell the search engine you're using how to interpret your request.

*Tip: Use AND in between separate concepts that you would like to combine in your search.  Use OR in between concepts that mean the same or similar, to widen your options.  Example: teenager OR adolescent

Discovery tool: Digital library tool that searches sources available both via the library catalog and via subscription databases from one search box

Library catalog: Searchable index of the library’s holdings (print resources, multimedia items, and sometimes ebooks and digital periodicals to which the library subscribes)

Open web: Information on the internet that you can access for free and without a password.

Subscription databases: Collections of articles or other documents that can be searched; usually digital and accessible online

Examples of Subscription databases are:  Academic Search Complete, Project Muse and Opposing Viewpoints in Context