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FREN 1900 Paris, Real and Imagined (Kilbane): Develop a Topic

Mindmapping & Brainstorming

Use brainstorming to come up with key words that will help you expand your search. Try to think of related topics, both more general and more specific, as well as synonyms for all of your terms. For example fashion could become: dress, clothing, costume, haute couture, la mode, Chanel, Christian Dior, etc. A mind map can often be a good way to start thinking of terms and topics:

Online tools for creating mind maps:

Research Process: Developing Research Questions

What is a research question?

A research question is useful for guiding the rest of your research process, but it can change as you learn more about your topic. Start with a question you are curious about or a topic that your professor assigns to you.  

  • Who? - Who is my research question about? Does it involve a person or group of people (like a company or organization)? Are there certain demographic criteria that I'm interested in?
  • What? - What is the main focus of my research question? Are there subtopics or other issues surrounding it? 
  • When? - Is time a factor in my research question? Is there a historical period that is involved, or am I looking for up-to-date information? 
  • Where? - Is geography a factor in my research question? Does place matter for this topic? Can I think more broadly about the location, like region or continent, instead of city or state? Would research from another similar location be relevant to help answer my research question?   
  • Why? - Why is this topic interesting? Why will my readers be interested in this? Is there a broader context or theory that this question involves? Do I need background information about this topic? 
  • How? - How can I go about finding the information I need to answer the research question? Is the information freely available online or in a library subscription resource like a database? Do I need books, journal articles, or something else?

Now that you have thought about these questions, you should try to write out your research question and include as many of these details as possible.

Learn more about formulating research questions at the link below:

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

Research Process: Develop Search Terms

keyword icon from noun project 

Using your research question, identify the main concepts that are involved. Try to avoid general words like 'impact' or 'effect' because they are going to appear in all sorts of writings from many different fields. Stick to concepts unique to your research question. These concepts can be translated into keywords for searching. 

Tips: 

  • Identify nouns and noun phrases in your research question
  • Consider how experts or academics talk about the concept
  • Are there more or less-specific terms that relate to your concept?
  • Do you need to think about synonyms in other languages?

Use the link below to learn more about how to develop strong search terms.

Reference Sources

Encyclopedias and other reference sources are a great way to quickly learn about your topic. They will help you develop more keywords to search, as well as pointing you to other resources in their bibliographies.

Background Information in Books

books icon from noun project

Books often contain general overviews of a topic. Search OneSearch or Chinook to find books on your topic. 

Find a book that is related to your topic, then use it's Subject Headings to search for similar books. Reference books often have Subject Headings that include terms like Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Characters, Biographies, Bibliographies, etc.

EXAMPLES: 

Latin American literature -- Dictionaries
Portuguese language -- Glossaries, vocabularies, etc  
Authors, Latin American -- Biography -- Dictionaries  
Theater -- Latin America -- Dictionaries  
Literary criticism -- European -- Spanish & Portuguese.