Now that the semester is really underway, you may need to decide on a topic (or topics) to research in different classes. Some instructors might offer a few choices on topics to research while others may give you free rein in selecting a topic to work with. Sometimes coming up with a topic can be a challenge. Don’t worry if you feel stuck – there are strategies that you can use to successfully brainstorm and come up with a topic idea to research. Remember, though, be sure to pick a topic that interests you!
How can you start brainstorming for topic ideas?
- The first step in brainstorming is to come up with a general idea that you would like to research and seems intriguing to you. Can’t think of something immediately? Consider:
- Class discussions
- Current events and news stories
- Your hobbies
- Chat with others – your classmates, your instructor, a librarian!
If you are having a hard time with this first step, check out CQ Researcher for reports on current social issues, NewsBank for hot topics from the news, and Google News for continuously updated news stories. See the Egan Library Research Minute video below for tips on brainstorming with CQ Researcher.
- After you’ve decided on a general topic you’ll most likely need to narrow it down. It may help to do some free writing and concept mapping at this point. Consider focusing your topic by applying a specific time period (e.g. the Great Depression, the past 10 years, the Renaissance, etc.), a specific place (e.g. Alaska, China, etc.), and a group – i.e. who (e.g. children, animals, etc.).
You can also try out mind mapping tools like:
- bubbl.us - you will need to create an account, but then you can save, print, and export your maps!
- Mindmeister – get a free, basic account or go for a personal account if you really love it.
- Visuwords is an online graphical dictionary that allows you to look up word meanings plus associations.
By using these strategies and resources, you will hopefully be able to come up with a topic that you look forward to learning more about! If you have questions along the way, be sure to ask a librarian – we’re here to help.
Now that you are planning ahead – mark your calendar for some upcoming Library Workshops! There are a variety of different research tools, resources, and tricks and strategies that you can use to make your research more efficient and to find information that you find interesting and exciting. You can get a head start on learning some of these tricks and strategies by attending a short series of upcoming workshops presented by librarians from Egan Library. We welcome all students, staff, and faculty! No registration is required, and all of the workshops will be in Egan 114 at 2:00pm.
Join us for:
o Get Academic with Google, Wednesday, January 29th
o Library eBooks 101, February 12th
o Advanced Researcher Tools, March 5th
So the research tip for this week is – take the initiative to learn how to research smarter and faster. See you at the workshop next week
Welcome new and returning students! While you are busy getting back into the swing of things with your classes and campus activities, remember to also prepare for conducting research in your classes. By preparing ahead you will be better equipped to address and dig into your research when you need to do so for an assignment. The big research tip of this blog post is to plan ahead.
We have a growing collection of research guides to assist you with the research process, and even with specific resources and classes. This collection includes the guide Get Started @ Egan Library. Take a look and make sure that you take the necessary steps (like getting a library card and setting up an ILLiad account) to get a successful start to your semester and insure that you are well-prepared to use our resources and services for your academic pursuits.
So, be prepared and plan ahead - get an early start on success! Best wishes for an awesome semester.
I admit that with all the excitement and action of the Fall Semester that I have not been posting as many research tips as I would like. Look for more frequent tips in the future!
As many of you seem to be digging into your research now and developing your bibliographies, it is a great time to make use of RefWorks! RefWorks is a bibliographic management system that enables you to store, search, organize, and format your references. By using RefWorks you can easily format selected references in MLA or APA format (+ many other choices). Check out the following to get started with RefWorks:
RefWorks research guide : This guide includes information on how to get started using RefWorks, adding references to your RefWorks account, how to create a bibliography in RefWorks, and more! There is also a 20 minute video on learning how to use RefWorks.
Here’s a short video specific to using RefWorks with EBSCOhost collections (like OneSearch):
Tip! As with all computer-generated references, make sure that you check the formatting of your references from RefWorks.
You may already know that Wikipedia is *not* a credible source to use for academic work. So, what can you use instead to familiarize yourself with a topic that you are beginning to research? Numerous resources are available from your library – both in print and online. Generally, reference resources, like encyclopedias and dictionaries, are great resources to use to find background information. These are more reliable than Wikipedia and can assist you with finding background information on a topic, which is a key component of beginning the research process.
Gale Virtual Reference Library (accessible under “Quick Links” on the left-hand side of the library’s homepage) is an online collection of academic encyclopedias with titles spanning from The Future of Sustainability to Debates on US Immigration to Geo-data: The World Geographical Encyclopedia. You can easily search across the Gale Virtual Reference Library’s (GVRL) collections by keywords or browse the collection by subject. By using GVRL you can easily find reliable information to start familiarizing yourself with a topic and to help direct the general focus of your research.
Here’s a video with a few more tips on GVRL:
Welcome new and returning students! As you are busy getting settled in for the Fall Semester, take a few minutes to make sure that you are prepared for making use of the library and its resources for your research, study, and pleasure. See our research guide Get Started @ Egan Library to make sure that you are ready.
Additionally, the other big tip of this post is to start planning for your research early on in the semester! OK, it’s only the first day of classes, but making sure that you know how to use your library and have the basics (like your library card and UA username and password) covered can be some of the first steps toward academic success!
Here’s a video that can also help you get started:
Egan Research Minute – Start @ Egan Library
Have a great semester!
OneSearch is the library’s new discovery tool that you can use to search across library collections for books, media, articles, and more – all from a single search box!
OneSearch is a good option to use when you:
- Want to get a general idea about how much information is available on a topic
- Aren’t sure what database is right for you!
- Need only a few resources on a topic (i.e. you don’t need to do a comprehensive lit review)
- Aren’t familiar with subject specific databases.
Take a look at our research guide OneSearch – Highlights, give OneSearch a try, and let us know what you think!