Skip to main content

Latin American Literature and Culture: 2. Informar

Using Wikipedia for Research and other Reference Sources

As you gather background information about your topic, your research question may change and that’s okay. Background information should inform you of what’s already known about your topic so that you can ask questions that truly require research to answer. Sometimes background information can be called “reference information.” In fact, there’s a whole section of Norlin Library that has reference materials.


Wikipedia sphere logo Wikipedia name text

One place you can start is Wikipedia, but be sure to check other sources including library subscription encyclopedias (see links in the "Reference Databases" box). You can use Wikipedia to:

  1. Do some initial searching and learn about related topics
  2. Find keywords that you can use in database searches
  3. Find links to references to useful, and hopefully, credible sources

Be careful:

  1. Do not cite to Wikipedia. Since anyone can edit this online resource, it can be difficult to cite an author or evaluate that author for credibility
  2. Do not believe everything you read on Wikipedia. Try verifying the information through another credible source, like a library reference database

Revisit your Research Question

Now that you have done some background searching, and have hopefully picked up a few new keywords along the way, revisit your research question. Can you add more details to it to help you focus in on a more-specific topic? By reflecting on what you're really interested in will help make your database and catalog searching more efficient and targeted.

Consider also whether your question is too big - are you attempting to explain and solve a huge problem in just 4-6 pages? Is your question too focused and narrow so that it is difficult to find something exactly about the one situation you want to write about?

If you're still struggling to narrow your topic down, do some more background research or reach out to your instructor and librarian for help.