Geography courses / Kheirabadi: Start Your Research
Questions to Ask About Your Topic
As you start doing general reading to get an overview of your topic, here are some questions you may want to answer in your note-taking:
- What interests me about this topic?
- What questions do I have about this topic? What confuses me?
- Who is affected by this? Who cares about this? What types of experts might be writing about this?
- What are the major issues involved in this topic? Are there particular controversies or viewpoints of note?
- What key terms describe this topic or are there organizations or people should I be aware of?
Concept Map Your Topic
It can be helpful to create a concept map of your topic so that you can narrow down your topic or think of all the aspects of your topic you'd like to cover. A mindmap is a diagram of your topic and this three-minute video describes how to create one:
Sources for Background Research
These three databases contain many encyclopedias that you can search to get background information on your topic. In addition to a broad overview of the topic you're researching, these sources often contain recommended readings for a more in-depth view.
- Encyclopedias for Background Research This link opens in a new windowA selection of online encyclopedias that provides general overviews of topics across many subjects. Start here to get working definitions of key concepts and a big picture view of your topic.
- Credo Reference This link opens in a new windowProvides online versions of 500 published reference works, including general and specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias. Try the Concept Map to search for terms and topics that are interconnected and displayed in a visual form.
- Access Science This link opens in a new windowAn online version of McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology and McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms. It contains nearly 9,000 online encyclopedia articles, terms, images and videos related to sciences and technology. The Study Center provides essay topics, study guides and bibliographies.
Brainstorm Keywords for Searching
As you read about your topic, make a note of search terms that will be useful for finding articles on your topic. When you are searching Google or other search engines, you can use "natural language" searching - just type in your whole question and you may find exactly what you want. Database searching and advanced Google searching requires more precise use of search terms.
Watch the 2 minute video from Portland State University below for some useful tips.