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FYS 100 (06): A Life Worth Living: Getting Started

Encyclopedias

Articles in encyclopedias, especially scholarly subject encyclopedias, can be very helpful in establishing basic information about a person, place, event, or theory and they often have bibliographies that list additional resources worth consulting.

Basic Library Tools

How to Narrow and Focus Your Topic

Start by phrasing your subject or general topic in the form of a question.

Then ask yourself further questions about your topic:

  • What do you know about it? What don't you know?
  • What aspects or viewpoints of your topic interest you? Examples include social, legal, medical, ethical, biological, psychological, economic, political, and philosophical. A viewpoint allows you to focus on a single aspect.
     
  • What population do you want to cover? Examples include gender, age, occupation, ethnicity, nationality, educational attainment, species, etc.
  • How does your topic fit into a larger system or structure?
     
  • Next, look for resources which provide background information. Some selected general and specialized subject sources can help narrow the topic.
     
  • Remember, there are two layers of research:
    1) a broad search to discover resources and to read some background information
    2) specific searches for information once you've focused your topic.