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Need research help? Visit ASK US Email email@example.com or contact a subject specialist.
Somewhere in between your initial idea and settling on a research question, you may need to do background research on how scholars in a particular subject area have discussed your topic. You may find background research in your textbook or class readings, academic books in the library's collection, or reference sources.
The databases below compile encyclopedia sources from a variety of disciplines, and they can be a great way to consider how your topic has been studied from different angles.
After you have an initial project idea, you can think deeper about the idea by developing a "Topic + Question + Significance" sentence. This formula came from Kate Turabian's Student's Guide to Writing College Papers. Turabian notes that you can use it plan and test your question, but do not incorporate this sentence directly into your paper (p. 13):
TOPIC: I am working on the topic of __________,
QUESTION: because I want to find out __________,
SIGNIFICANCE: so that I can help others understand __________.
Turabian, Kate L. Student's Guide to Writing College Papers. 4th edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2010.
Remember: the shorter your final paper, the narrower your topic needs to be. Having trouble?
How do you move from a topic or a research question to searching in a database? You first have to pick out keywords from your research question.