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.