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LIB 100: Academic Research and Information Issues

It's helpful to locate background information on your topic because it can help you focus your research question. Some of the information you can gather from background information includes:

  • terminology or jargon specific to your topic 
  • central issues of your topic
  • key conversations, perspectives, and points of view among experts

A great place to look for background information is in reference sources like encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks, and websites like Wikipedia. 

Useful Databases for Finding Background Information:

Credo offers subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other useful reference materials like videos and images on a wide variety of subject areas and current issues. A unique and useful feature of Credo is a webbed topic map that connects related concepts-- it's great for brainstorming a topic!

This database provides reference materials on current issues, primarily in the United States. 

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online includes entries on a wide variety of subjects, both historical and contemporary.  This database is especially useful for biographies and information about countries.

This database provides searchable full text reference books on many subjects including business, the environment, and medicine, among others. 

Developing an effective research question can make the research process much smoother by providing a clear focus for your information searches and eventually your writing.

An effective research question is:

  • Clear and specific
  • Appropriately narrow depending on the project
  • Open-ended
  • Doesn't "lead the witness" or pick a side
  • Not easily answerable
  • Already have been researched by scholars

Here are some examples of effective research questions:

  • What has been the economic impact of the BP oil spill on the Louisiana gulf?
  • What impact does having a daily recess have on elementary school students' learning?
  • How does tourism in Venice impact its physical and cultural sustainability?
  • What methods for reducing the spread of HIV were effective in America?

Looking for Inspiration?

Interesting topics are all around us! A few places you may pick up an interesting topic from include:

  • Personal interests 
  • Your favorite class
  • News items
  • Perusing scholarly journals
  • The library!
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