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FYWB 1102: Leaving Home (Breyer)

Prof. Ben Breyer, Spring 2022

Getting Started

photograph of Persepolis screening in a movie theaterWelcome! This page highlights key resources for the First Year Writing: Leaving Home research project, including the following:

  • Materials for the library workshops
  • The class bibliography 
  • Tips for searching for books
  • Databases for locating articles, including scholarly and peer-reviewed articles
  • Resources for citing your sources and writing
  • Tips to to help keep textbook costs down
  • Remote library services during the Covid-19 pandemic

If you would like assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation with your personal librarian.

Image: "persepolis" by Susan Sermoneta, via flickr

The Research Process

General Research Help

Choosing a topic

Choosing a topic often feels like an impossible first step, so it is best to keep your topic ideas broad, and then begin honing in on your research question as you encounter research materials. 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 Finding Background Material tab on this 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!