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Research Basics: Getting Started

Tips and tutorials for searching Library databases and conducting research.

Gathering Background Information

When you are just getting started on an essay or paper, it is essential to conduct background research first.  This will give you a better understanding of your topic, will help you narrow down your topic, and will let you know what is out there.  Check out the following tabs for examples of good places to gather background information.  If you have any questions about conducting background research, check out the following resource:

This is a list of databases that are helpful in gathering background information:

Here are some web resources to use to gather background information:

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Focusing Your Topic

When choosing your research, follow these 3 steps:

First start with a broad subject or area of interest.  Then narrow down to your topic to something specific in that area of interest.

For example, you can start off with a general interest in environmental science and then narrow this down to climate change.  Your topic can’t be too broad or too narrow, it has to be right in between these two extremes.

After choosing your topic, you now have to narrow down to your specific research question.

Creating concept maps or mind mapping is a powerful brainstorming tool that will help you narrow down your topic.  The purpose of mind mapping is showing the relationship between different concepts.  It is typically a series of circles connected by lines to show the relationship between topics.

For example, as you can see, you start in the middle with your main, broad topic.  From there, connect it to smaller, more specific topics within that broad topic.  Some of those secondary topics will be related and some will not be related. 

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