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Library Research Help: Define Your Topic

Learn how to use Library resources during the research process.

Narrowing Your Topic

Instructions: To make this Prezi work, select the "Start Prezi" in the middle of the screen. Use the arrows to move to the next screen or go back a screen. You may make the Prezi full screen, or zoom in and out with the arrows on the right, or using the scroll button on your mouse.

Putting Keywords Together

When you put your keywords together, you get a general idea in what direction you are taking your research paper.

RESEARCH IDEA CONCEPT 1 CONCEPT 2 CONCEPT 3
I want to know about genocide. genocide    
Why did the Rwanda Genocide occur?  genocide Rwanda  
How did the U.S.handle the Rwanda Genocide? genocide Rwanda U. S.

It's rare to get exactly what you are searching for on the first try. Be flexible.

If you get too few results:

  • try some synonyms for your topic and keywords, example: United States, U.S., America, USA
  • try broader terms, example: mass murder, race extermination 
  • check your spelling

If you have too many results:

  • add keywords, example: United States Foreign Policy, Africa, Hutu, Tutsi

 

Step 1: Choose your Topic

When choosing a topic, make sure you know what your final research paper should look like. What exactly is the assignment? Each instructor has different requirements and purposes. Ask your instructor for clarification if you do not understand. Consider asking him/her to approve your topic.

For help with topic ideas look at CQ Researcher or Opposing Viewpoints "Browse Issue/Topic" and the PDF below.

Step 2: Consider What You Already Know

Brainstorm main ideas, keywords, and associations that you already know. Consider the who, what, when, where, why of your topic.

Who is involved/impacted? 

A specific age group, occupation, ethnic group, gender, etc. Who does/doesn't support it?

What is the problem?

What is the issue facing the "who" in your topic? Are there any synonyms? 

Where is it happening?

A specific country, region, city, physical environment, rural vs. urban, etc.

When is this happening?

Is this a current issue or an historical event? Will you discuss the historical development of a current problem?

Why/How is it happening / Why is this a problem?

You may want to focus on causes or argue the importance of this problem by outlining historical or current ramifications. Or you may decide to persuade your instructor and class why they should care about the issue.

Step 3: Perform Quick Background Research

Use Google or Wikipedia to gain a better understanding of your topic. What additional information do you notice? Note any keywords and/or topics that may help direct where you want to go with your research.

Step 4: Narrow your topic

Any topic can be difficult to research if it is too broad or narrow. Start to narrow your topic by adding keywords. Add additional keywords to further narrow down your topic. It is common to modify your topic during the research process. 

For assistance, see "Putting Keywords Together" box on the left.

Step 5: Begin Library Research

For books, eBooks, and videos, search the OCCC Library Catalog:

For magazine and journal articles on a controversial issue:

For scholarly journal articles: 

For newspaper articles on a general topic:

For newspaper articles on an Oklahoma topic:

For historical newspaper articles: