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Develop a Topic and Research Question


Research is a learning experience. Ideally, you know enough about your topic to be curious about it, but even this might not be enough to launch a successful and satisfying research experience for an academic project. You may want to take a look at what is already known and accepted about your topic, what issues remain, and who is talking about it. Basically, this is background or overview information and can help you get ideas about questions you want to pursue, and help you build vocabulary, if needed, that is specific to your topic. 

Making use of background information early in your project will: Help you ask questions; Make good search statements; More easily make sense of search results; And even help with selecting sources and with using those sources in your project.

On the Penfield Library website, we have highlighted a number of good background sources as Research Starters (see link below). Most of these are encyclopedias and many are produced to scholarly, academic standards. The topic entries in these will range from several paragraphs to several pages and will offer an organized treatment of the topic including concepts, the names of people and places, and dates that are important to understanding the topic. Often the entry will include a list of key sources for further reading and will be signed by the author of the entry.

You can also find Research Starters and background information through these resources:

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