Keys to Success
- Understand your information need. If it is for a class assignment, make sure to understand the research requirements.
- Think creatively. Don’t select a topic because it seems easy. Find something that interests you.
- Read from various background sources to understand your topic so you can ask good questions.
Highlighted Resource: Opposing Viewpoints The Opposing Viewpoints database by Gale is one of the best resources that you can use to learn more about a variety of topics (You can also find other resources at the bottom of this webpage). The Opposing Viewpoints database can help you understand many perspectives on current issues people are discussing today.
Watch this video to get acquainted with Opposing Viewpoints. (You’ll be glad you know how to use it.)
Click on each resource below to learn more about how to effectively use it to develop your research topic.
Toggle ItemLearn about topics with Wikipedia
Wikipedia is one of the best launching pads for research. Wikipedia is a great way to conduct background research about a topic. Let’s explore the right ways to use this tool.
Getting up to speed
First off, Wikipedia is a great way to get up to speed on a topic you may not be well-versed in. Wikipedia, like any source, shouldn’t be used in isolation—it’s important to use a variety of sources when researching—but it’s a great starting place with a lot of hyperlinked text to help you understand concepts as you read.
SubtopicsFurthermore, you can read to be inspired by certain subtopics on a Wikipedia page. If you’re interested in a topic but don’t know what aspects to explore, a Wikipedia page can help you get a little more focused!
Reference DiveA final reason (maybe we saved the best for last…) to use Wikipedia is because it is often a jackpot for scholarly resources. Think of it as a map that can point you in different directions for research and learning. If there are articles in the references that seem interesting, open them in new tabs and start exploring!
Toggle ItemEffectively use Google to explore a topic
Google can be a great resource when conducting background research about a topic.
Not all information that you find on Google will be true. Make sure to focus on the most reliable sources. Some of the best sources may be found on the first page of search results, but don't forget that there are often other great results past the first page.
Use Relevant Keywords
Don't ask Google questions. Instead, focus on using keywords that reflect the aspects of the topic you want to learn more about. Doing this will help you find more helpful sources.
Make sure to avoid using keyphrases that are biased. For example, if you type “minimum wage problems,” Google tries to give you sources that say minimum wage is a problem. A strong bias is likely already built into the sources you see. Similarly, even though the terms “illegal aliens” and “immigrants” are getting at a similar concept, searching one term over the other will lead you to very different results.
So when using Google:
- Be mindful of the keywords you use to search
- Be critical of the sources Google provides you with
- Look past the first page 😀
Toggle ItemGet help at the Research and Writing Center (RWC)