Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL): Choosing a Topic
Grinnell College: Choosing a Research Topic
Sacred Heart University: Choosing a Topic
When you have to choose your own topic for a paper, you can get ideas by visiting a "megasite" where broad topics are listed. Here are some megasites you can check out for topics:
An important step to take before beginning research is to determine what information formats are more likely to have the information you need.
Consider the Information (Publication) Timeline* and decide what form of information you need to target in your research. Sheridan College provides a succinct explanation of choosing appropriate sources and formats you require for your research - along with other information to help on your foray into academic research.
See also Part I of the tutorial Introduction to Information Literacy & Finding Information Using the Library.
* Source: "Research Foundations: The Information Timeline." Seminole State College. 2022. Web. 9 Jan 2023.
If you need to find information in a particular format, here are some links to start out with.
Books -- search the Isothermal CCLINC Consortium Catalog. More information: How to Use the CCLINC and How Books Are Organized (LC Classification System).
The CCLINC is a consortium of community college libraries in North Carolina that has a shared catalog with more than a million learning resources, making this library cooperative third in size among the libraries of publicly funded institutions of higher education in North Carolina. This online catalog gives access to the collections at each of the libraries, not just Isothermal's collections. It allows you to search the collection, place items on hold, and check on the status of your personal patron file. The CCLINC (Community College Libraries in North Carolina) catalog circulates approximately 500,000 items per year, and sends/receives more than 7,500 items annually to/from member libraries.
eBooks -- NC LIVE has full-text eBooks. For off-campus use: your password for your Moodle (Isothermal) account access.
Articles -- NC LIVE has full-text articles in magazines, journals and newspapers. For off-campus use: your password for your Moodle (Isothermal) account access.
For finding information on particular subjects, go to Research Guides or to A to Z Online Resources Guide.
While Google is by far the most popular search engine, there are many other good ones out there. As stated by regents of the University of California-Berkeley Library,
"Not everything on the Web is fully searchable in Google. Overlap studies show that more than 80% of the pages in a major search engine's database exist only in that database. For this reason, getting a "second opinion" can be worth your time. For this purpose, we recommend Yahoo! Search or Exalead. We do not recommend using meta-search engines as your primary search tool." (2012)*
* Source: "Recommended Search Engines." 2012. Regents of the University of California. UC Berkeley Library. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
To use information ethically, your work must be free of plagiarism.
To plagiarize is to use someone else's idea, creation or information without giving proper credit to the person or the group that originated the idea, creation or information. By giving full credit to anyone whose work you have incorporated into your work, you are using information ethically. This is especially important now that you're in the college environment.
More information on plagiarism:
To learn more about citing (giving credit to) information that you use in your work, see Documenting Resources of Information.
Before you search for your topic, think of some additional terms that mean the same, or close to the same, as your main search term.
For instance, if someone were interested in finding information about assisted suicide, they could also use a synonym (a word that means exactly the same as the main word), which in this case could be euthanasia. As a related term, they could search for mercy killing, or Dr. Kevorkian, a medical doctor who advocated assisted suicide and helped make the topic famous.
Here is an illustration of how much information you can get by searching for one, two or three terms related to your topic:
If you need help finding keywords and related terms, the Library of Congress Subject Headings search or Thesaurus.com can help you find them.
Since it is important to use reliable information in completing your college assignments, you need to evaluate the information sources you come across.
The important points to consider in scrutinizing information sources are:
For more information on using these tools for scrutinizing information, see Evaluating Your Sources* and/or Evaluating Information (PDF document).
Keep in mind that not every source of information on the Internet is reliable. Anyone who figures out how to do it can post anything they want online. The webmaster might be a scholar or someone who just wants to rant about something.
You can get a clue about websites by the extension on their URL:
Listed below are several sources you can reference to understand the different types of sources and evaluate their quality and relevance to your research.
City University of Hong Kong: Pick the Best Sources
Cornell University: Critically Analyzing Information Sources
University of California-Berkeley: Evaluating Resources
For more information on evaluating information:
* Source: Mohanty, Suchi, Lisa Norberg, Kim Vassiliadis, and Tammi Owens. "Evaluate Your Sources." Evaluating Information. Univ. of North Carolina, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.
This page offers the general what's and how's of information literacy, among other research tips. See the complete Information Literacy page for more specifics, plus the College rubric.
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