Where to Find Ideas
Why Should I Start with Background Information?
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.
ProCon.org: 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.
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
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.
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." (AmericanCity.org)
"Information about sustainable transportation and livable communities." (About Streetsblog)
An organization whose "goal is to revolutionize thought, communication and activism related to race, gender and equality." (About Race-Talk)
"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."
"The leading source and authority for science, technology information and policy for a general audience." (http://www.scientificamerican.com/)
"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)
"More than five million historical items are currently available . . . include documents, films, manuscripts, photographs, and sound recordings that tell the American story."
"Primarily covers American economic and international business topics, and financial news and issues." (Wikipedia Entry)
"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." (http://www.psychologytoday.com/)
"This database is focused on current military affairs, covering areas of engineering, public affairs, public policy, and international affairs."
"Global politics, economics, and ideas." (About Foreign Policy)
This handout illustrates how a research question develops from a broad topic to a focused question.
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)