1. Brainstorm possible topic ideas
- Consider your personal interests.
- Engage in conversations in class or with classmates.
- Read articles in encyclopedias or dictionaries and review class readings.
- Browse recent issues of journals or magazines.
- Browse the shelves for books on your subject. (Patricia's NOTE: A Call Number is a physical address for where a book lives on the shelves, and also a CODE to the content inside--similar books are aften shelved near one another, so browsing may turn up unexpected books of interest! Use this map of Hillman, and these printable lists of subject headings and sub-headings from the Library of Congress, if you want to see what I mean.)
2. Review assignment requirements
- What kind of assignment is it - 5 minute oral presentation, 10 page paper, 50 page paper?
- How much information do you need?
- Does it need to be recent information?
- What types of publications do you want to read - newspaper articles, books, journal articles, diaries, trade publications?
- What formats do you need - visual, audio, printed, electronic?
- Is point of view an issue? Do you need opinions?
- How much time do you have?
3. List keywords to define your topic
- State your research topic as a question.
- Think about the significant terms, concepts, and keywords that describe your topic. These terms will become the key for searching for information about your subject in library catalogs, online databases, and other resources.
- Sample keywords for research topic "How did New Deal programs influence the arts in America?":
- New Deal
- United States
- Federal Aid to the Arts
4. Gather background information on your topic
It's hard to get started if you don't know much about your topic. Do some general reading in things like encyclopedias and subject-specific dictionaries to get an overview of the topic. This is also a great first step towards refining your topic.
Adapted from Duke University Libraries (Thanks, Duke librarians!)