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Interdisciplinary Studies: Get Started

Welcome! Here you will find useful resources to help you in your interdisciplinary studies research.

Find a Topic

Where to Find Ideas

  • Class discussions or readings
  • Articles in bridge sources related to your area of concentration
  • Relevant current events

Gather Background Information

Why Should I Start with Background Information?

  • Gain familiarity with the topic
  • Identify more specific aspects of the topic on which to focus
  • Provide context and identify differing perspectives
  • Identify experts related to the topic

Search Gale Virtual Reference Library (A bunch of digital encyclopedias)

More Great Resources for Background Info

CQ Researcher Plus Archive
This database includes 20- to 30-page reports about broad social issues. Each report includes an overview and a pro/con section about the topic.

Points of View Reference Center
This full text database provides access to opinion essays about controversial issues. It also indexes journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. Pros and Cons of Controversial Issues
The website of a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting information about controversial issues without bias.

Room for Debate
The New York Times publishes multiple points of view about issues currently in the news.

Narrow a Topic

Narrowing a topic requires you to be more specific about your research interest and can help you to develop a thesis.

Questions to Narrow Your Topic

  • Who? Who is the specific person/group to which you would like to limit your research?
  • What? What specific aspect of the broad topic idea is interesting to you?
  • Where? To which specific geographic area or region would you like to limit your research?
  • When? On what time period would you like your research focused?
  • Why? Why do you think this is an important/interesting topic?

What is a Problem Definition?

A problem definition is typically a one sentence statement in the first paragraph, or beginning, of your project that states your purpose. Problem definitions should be arguable, specific, detailed, and meaningful.

Bridge Sources

Compared with popular sources such as Newsweek, these bridge sources will contain more in-depth analysis of issues that is closer to the type of analysis that true scholarly sources have, but they are not actually scholarly or peer-reviewed.

American Society of Civil Engineers An organization whose purpose is to "propose practical solutions to improve America's neglected infrastructure, to prepare professional engineers to address the future's most pressing challenges, [and to] embrace civil engineers' role as contributors to a sustainable world." (About ASCE)

Next City "Dedicated to promoting socially and environmentally sustainable economic growth in America’s cities and examining how and why our built environment, economy, society and culture are changing." (

Streetsblog "Information about sustainable transportation and livable communities." (About Streetsblog)

Colorlines "A daily news site offering award-winning reporting, analysis, and solutions . . . on a broad range of issues including politics, immigration reform, the economy and jobs." (Colorlines - About Us)

Race-Talk An organization whose "goal is to revolutionize thought, communication and activism related to race, gender and equality." (About Race-Talk)

Ethnic News Watch "A full-text general reference database of the newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic, minority, and native press"; includes information "in the areas of politics, education, sociology, Spanish language, journalism, the arts, the environment, and ethnic studies."

Science Magazine "Scientific news, commentary, and cutting-edge research. . . . Its articles consistently rank among world's most cited research." (

Scientific American "The leading source and authority for science, technology information and policy for a general audience." (

Discover Magazine "An American science magazine that publishes articles about science for a general audience." (Wikipedia entry) (

American Heritage "The oldest, most widely known and respected popular U.S. history magazine." (About American Heritage Magazine)

Smithsonian Magazine "A monthly magazine created for modern, well-rounded individuals with diverse interests. It chronicles the arts, history, sciences and popular culture of the times." (About Smithsonian Magazine)

American Memory Project from the Library of Congress "More than five million historical items are currently available . . . include documents, films, manuscripts, photographs, and sound recordings that tell the American story."

Wall Street Journal "Primarily covers American economic and international business topics, and financial news and issues." (Wikipedia Entry)

Regional Business News "Regional Business News incorporates 75 business journals, newspapers and newswires covering all metropolitan and rural areas within the United States."

Psychology Today "Covers all aspects of human behavior and mental health, from the workings of the mind to the bonds between people and the larger cultural forces that drive our most intimate decisions." (

Military and Government Collection "This database is focused on current military affairs, covering areas of engineering, public affairs, public policy, and international affairs."

Foreign Policy "Global politics, economics, and ideas." (About Foreign Policy)

How to Develop a Good Research Topic

How to Use Gale Virtual Reference Library

Helpful Handout :: Narrowing Your Topic

This handout illustrates how a research question develops from a broad topic to a focused question.

Using Wikipedia for Academic Research

This tutorial explains how to use Wikipedia as an exploratory tool and where it can appropriately fit in the research process. Created by Michael Baird, Cooperative Library Instruction Project (CLIP)