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ENGL 1301 - Ebersbaker: Before you start...

How do you know what kind of sources to look for?

Some questions to ask yourself before you start your research:

  • Do I know enough about my topic to choose meaningful search terms?
    • Reference books such as encyclopedias are useful sources for learning basics about a topic before starting your research.
  • Does it matter how old your sources are?  
    • Should you use sources dating from the beginning of time to the present? 
    • Do you only want the most current information?
  • How specific is your topic? 
    • ​Are you giving a broad overview of the topic?
    • Do you need in-depth research on the topic?
  • Who counts as a credible writer on this topic?
    • Does the writer need to be an expert in the field?  What kind of credentials will prove that this person is an expert?
    • Is it okay for the writer to be a non-expert who cites his/her sources well?

Find Background Information on Your Topic

These sources will help you find background information on your topic.  This can help you narrow your research question to a manageable size and also suggest some search terms you might use once you begin your research.

Choosing a research topic

Research is a process of inquiry.

You should be able to frame your research topic as a question.  Example:

  • What current events in Shakespeare's time might have influenced his writing?
  • How does Shakespeare portray power relationships between women and men in Macbeth?
  • What does the role of the supernatural play in Macbeth?

Your research will attempt to answer this question.

Break down your question into its most important parts.  You will use these as search terms.  Example for question 3, above:

The answer that you arrive at will be...the thesis of your paper.

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