Focus Your Topic
State your topic as a question. List other questions that might also address your topic.
Topic: How does television violence affect children?
How many acts of violence are shown in a typical children's cartoon?
- How many hours of television does the average child watch?
- Are there studies that have observed children's behavior before and after watching violent television programs?
- Is there any legislation addressing the issues of television violence?
Find Overviews or Background Information
Background information is usually general and brief. It gives you an outline of the major aspects of your topic without going into great detail. This way you can learn a little more about your topic before committing yourself to more research. You can also use background information to find out important facts, such as names of people or places that you can use as keywords in your searches.
The articles found in most encyclopedias provide good background information. It is easier to find background information on broad topics (for example "World War II"), rather than narrow ones ("World War II German artillery").Prepare Your Search
Circle the main words in your topic statement. Brainstorm for related words that might be used to describe your topic. Search engines and on-line databases can't understand entire questions the way people can. You need to pull out only the most important words to tell the database or search engine what to look for. For example:
Main concepts: Television, violence, children
Related words: aggression, youth, kids, adolescents, fighting, cartoons, animationFind Books
Books provide detailed information on a topic, and are usually published within two years after an event happens or an issue becomes controversial. Searchthe Greenley Library on-line catalog, to find books. Do a keyword search to find relevant subject headings for your topic. Use your related terms to construct other searches.
Examples of keyword searches:
- television and violence and children
- cartoons and aggression
- television and aggres*
- adolescents and television
Books are arranged by subject, using Call Numbers. When you find a book, check in the back of it for an index, where you can look up specific topics. Also check for a bibliography - a list of sources the author used that can help you find other books about the topic.
Journal, magazine and newspaper articles provide current information on many topics. If a subject is very new, such as recent cloning activities, it is more likely that you will find information about it in journals rather than in books.
Use online databases to find references to journal and newspaper articles, as well as full text articles. Databases are computerized indexes that allow you to do keyword or full-text searches for articles in many journals at once. All of the library's databases can be accessed through the library's web page.
Check Other Sources
Besides books and magazine articles, there are many other types of information. Check with a librarian to find out if other sources might be appropriate for your research. Some possible sources might include:
- Annual Reports
- Archival Material
- Book Reviews
- Conference Proceedings
- Government Documents
- Internet Resources
- Maps and Atlases
- Data and Statistics
Use this checklist to help you evaluate your sources.
Is the publication date appropriate?
Is it relevant to your topic?
Is the author well qualified? Is information about the author's educational background available in the publication?
Is the information fact, opinion, or propoganda? Facts can be verified; opinions involve the individual interpretation of facts.
What is the author's purpose - to inform or persuade?
Are there footnotes or a bibliography to support the author's work?
Who is the publisher? Who controls the publishing company (A cable company? A motion picture producer?)
Time, Newsweek, and People Magazine contain POPULAR articles.
The New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Forensic Sciences, and the Shakespeare Quarterly contain SCHOLARLY ARTICLES.
Put it All Together and Start Writing!