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First-Year, Transfer, and Honors Seminars: Research Strategies

This guide provides additional resources for the information literacy modules in UNI 101, UNI 201, and HON 110, for both students and instructors.

About Topics

Choosing a topic may feel difficult, especially if your assignment lets you choose just about anything for a topic. Just a couple of reassurances:

1. Almost anything can be a topic! As long as it fits within the parameters of your assignment, just about anything can be researched. Want to talk about how social media influencers affect public health? There's a ton of research on that! Want to see if there's research out there about your hobbies? I guarantee you there is! That leads us to point 2...

2. Choose something that interests you. If you're going to be working on this project for a while, you want to choose something that will hold your interest. If almost anything can be research, don't just pick topics you think are 'serious research' - pick something you're interested in learning more about. Besides, any research you take seriously is going to be serious research! Just keep in mind your ability to be objective, especially if you are very passionate about your topic.

3. Choosing a topic is not a static process. Your topic will change over time. As you're doing background research, you'll probably find some cool piece of information that makes you think, "huh, maybe I should write about that angle!" You might also notice that there isn't much research on an aspect of your topic, and choose to fill in the gap yourself or change directions. It's okay for your topic to change somewhat as you go because research is an iterative process.

4. Let your background research inform your topic. You'll want to do a little digging first to see what's out there on your proposed topic: has your topic been researched so much that it feels like there's nothing left to say about it? Is your topic so new that there might not be a lot of high-quality information on it yet? Is your topic too broad or too narrow? You can always check with your instructor for suggestions, but you'll want to choose something that feels researchable.

 Watch the video below to learn more about how to choose a researchable topic.

Choosing a Topic

Not sure what you should research? Watch the video below to help you figure out your research question.

Brainstorming & Conducting Background Research

Brainstorming is part of the research process! Even if you have some idea of what you might want to research, you are probably not already an expert on it. Part of understanding a topic better is conducting background research. This is research where you're just trying to develop more knowledge on a topic, not actively seeking out sources you want to cite. You can brainstorm and do background research at the same time with resources like CQ Research and Credo Reference.

CQ Researcher is a sort of "academic Wikipedia for arguments." It provides pro-con essays, background information, and links to further sources on a topic.

Credo Reference is a collection of background sources - encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. You can find more information on a topic through the entries in your search results, but it also has a handy mind mapping tool that helps you connect ideas and narrow down a topic.

Using Mind Maps in Credo Reference