Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

FYSB 1709: Drama, Theatre, and Art

The Research Process

Choosing a topic

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:

  • Pick a text that interests you and a theme or idea that you want write about
  • Come up with a preliminary question, but keep it loose
  • Brainstorm some keywords to help you begin your research

Finding background information

  • Use web resources like Wikipedia and Google searches to brainstorm and identify additional keywords for your topic
  • For authoritative reference resources (like scholarly encyclopedias) see the Reference Resources page. These resources:
    • Are written by scholars in their fields, so you can trust the information they provide
    • Give you an overview of your topic,  background information, and help define terms you aren't familiar with
    • Contain bibliographies to help you find more information related to your topic
    • Can help you find more keywords, phrases, people and ideas to further your research

Refining your topic

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!

Using Encyclopedias in your Research

Wikipedia

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.

Strengths of Wikipedia

  • Wikipedia is updated frequently. New information can be, and often is, added to the site within minutes. Due to editorial limitations, scholarly encyclopedias are usually updated annually. 
  • Because Wikipedia crowd sourced, there is the potential for a broader authorship than is found in academic publications. 
  • Citations in Wikipedia offer a wider array of materials, including articles and resources that are available for free and online.

Weaknesses of Wikipedia

  • Editors on Wikipedia are not necessarily experts. Authorship on Wikipedia is often anonymous or obscured.
  • Articles are always changing, making them difficult to cite in your research. An article you read today, may look quite different tomorrow.
  • Articles can be vandalized, providing wildly inaccurate information.

Ways to use Wikipedia

  • Use Wikipedia to get a general idea about a topic you are interested in.
  • Wikipedia is great for generating keywords for further searching in CLIO and elsewhere.
  • Check the citations, recommended resources and external links to guide you to more scholarly work.

Scholarly Encyclopedias

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.

Reference Sources

These sources are the most helpful for background research or looking up facts