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FYWB 1129: Speculating the Past (Schwartz)

About This Guide

Research Guide for First-Year Writing: Speculating the Past

In this guide, you'll find resources to help you with your research:

  • Resources to research background and contextual information on your topic and the approaches you might beBoxes of documents on repository shelving at the National Archives bringing to your research 
  • Places to find books in print and online
  • Databases for locating articles, including scholarly and peer-reviewed articles
  • Resources for citing your sources and writing
  • Guidelines for getting required course texts for free via the Library
  • Resources for accessing library resources remotely

Please feel free to book an appointment with me on my calendar page, for further support with your research.

Image: The National Archives (United Kingdom). Boxes of War Office documents on repository shelving at The National Archives in Kew (June 3, 2008). Via Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY 3.0)


Choosing a Topic


It may feel really overwhelming to choose a research topic. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose a text and/or concept or problem that interests you. This can be your starting place---be prepared for this to change a bit as you develop your research!
  • Write down keywords and key phrases that relate to what you are interested in, and the questions you want to ask as you research. Think of alternative terms. If you want to visualize them spatially, start a concept map, or mind map. 
  • Research backgrounds and contexts, if you would like (see the Reference page some reference sources that can help with this). 
  • Use the words and phrases on your concept map in your searches across catalogs and databases. Try out different combinations!
  • As you begin to review the sources you have found, think about how you might want to develop the shape of your topic---by making it more specific, or broadening it, or approaching it differently than you did when you started. 
  • Carefully skim each source to assess its relevance and use to your research. Look for clues in abstracts, tables of contents, citations, and indexes. You don't have to spend time on sources that you find less relevant—take what you need, and leave the rest!
  • Document and cite your sources as you go along - this will make the paper-writing process much easier.