Choosing a topic often feels like an impossible first step. It can be helpful to keep your initial topic ideas broad, and then begin honing in on your research question as you encounter new research materials. It is often through the process of research itself that one discovers a research topic.
There is no correct way to do research, but the following guidelines might be useful to keep in mind as you begin:
After gathering your background information, refine your initial topic and question based off of what you learned. A good rule of thumb: if there is an entire book on your topic, it is too broad for a research paper. On the other hand, if the topic can be discussed in a few paragraphs, then it is too narrow.
Example: "The role of women in the plays of Shakespeare" is too broad because hundreds of books and articles have been written on this topic; "The symbolism of Ariel's costume in the Tempest" is likely too narrow because there are not enough books and articles discussing this specific detail.
Remember, don't worry if refining your topic happens more than once!
As the world's largest encyclopedia, Wikipedia's coverage is vast. You are more likely to find articles on obscure topics in Wikipedia than you would anywhere else. But is Wikipedia accurate? While Wikipedia can be edited by anyone in the world (including you!), scholarly encyclopedias like Encyclopedia Britannica are written and edited by experts in their fields. However, 2005 study in the journal Nature weighed the accuracy of science articles on Wikipedia against the more scholarly Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia was found to be nearly as accurate in the 42 articles investigated. Encyclopedia Britannica refuted these claims. When using Wikipedia, or any encyclopedia for that matter, it is wise to verify what you find.
Check the citations, recommended resources and external links to guide you to more scholarly work.
Similar to Wikipedia, these resources provide an overview on a given topic, but the authors are experts in the fields they are covering. Below you will find a few general encyclopedia collections with coverage across a wide variety of fields.
[image] Suze Meyers, Feminist Wikipedia, 2016.
The NYPL Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the most extensive research collections in theatre, film, dance, music, and recorded sound.
The Library is open for browsing of its circulating collections. To request access to special collections material, users will need to create a special collections account. It is encouraged that patrons to make an appointment with the relevant division.
The Library for the Performing Arts is located at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza (entrance at 111 Amsterdam between 64th and 65th) - between the Metropolitan Opera and the Lincoln Center Theater.
Billy Rose Theatre Division: offers walk-in access to their general research collections. Researchers may access special collections by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by booking a virtual consultation with one of our librarians, who will make an appointment for you to visit the Library for the Performing Arts.
Jerome Robbins Dance Division: At this time they are not offering walk-in access to their research collections, but researchers can still access them by booking a virtual consultation with one of our librarians, who will make an appointment for you to visit the Library for the Performing Arts. For further inquiries you can contact email@example.com.
Music Division: At this time, the Music Division is not offering walk-in access to our research collections, but researchers can still access them by booking a virtual consultation with one of our librarians, who will make an appointment for you to visit the Library for the Performing Arts. For more information you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rodgers and Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound: At this time, they are not offering walk-in access to their research collections, but researchers can access them by booking a virtual consultation with one of our librarians, who will make an appointment for you to visit the Library for the Performing Arts. For more information you can email email@example.com.
Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT): offers walk-in access to their research collections, but for faster access we encourage researchers to make an appointment. For an appointment, please call (212) 870-1642 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find the general regulations for researchers here.