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Research Guides

Essential Research Skills

This guide supports the Library's Essential Research Skills workshop series.

To think about

of students find getting started is the hardest part of the research process*.

* Head, A.J. & Eisenberg, M.B. (2010). Truth be told: How college students evaluate and use information in the digital age. Project Information Literacy.

The Research Process

Topic Selection: Common ways of narrowing a topic

  • Geography
  • Chronology (i.e.dates, time periods or time spans)
  • Person, population or group (e.g ethnic, social, political, religious, gender, age, etc..)
  • Event based
  • Case based
  • Political perspective
  • Theoretical perspective (broad theories, e.g. feminist, Marxist; narrower theories on a specific topic, e.g. Goffman's theory of impression management)
  • Movement (literary, artistic, political, philosophical)
  • Specific instance
  • Aspects (e.g. sonnet => symbolism; homelessness => policy) 

Exploration: Using and Finding Encyclopedias

Encyclopedia articles are not research resources, though they may summarize research on a topic. Use them for background and for references to other sources, but generally don't quote them in your paper. This is as true for library resources as it is for Wikipedia. You'll need to be careful then not to unconsciouly use the ideas from encyclopedias without attribution.

Focus formulation: Research question/thesis statement