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  • Research Help Guide: 3. "Presearch"

    Use this guide to help you learn about research and perform research yourself for both academic and leisurely activities.


    It's pre-researching! 

    Get to know your topic. Think about what you are interested in and would like to learn more about.  For instance, are you interested in hiking? Try looking up hiking in trails in Kentucky.  Do you enjoy a sport?  Visit the organizational page for the sport that you are interested in and see what is going on in the field.

    Feel confident discussing your topic! While you may only be graded for the assignment you turn in, your professor or other classmates may have questions about your work. Being able to discuss your topic a bit further than what is mentioned in your project will help you better understand your subject and give you more information to expand upon in potential edits.

    Avoid broad subjects. Unless otherwise instructed to do so, delivering a paper on a topic like 'Art' may be too broad of a category. You'll certainly find a lot of information, but may have a hard time narrowing down any reference sources you may need. After all, art has many different areas to explore and it would be difficult to break down the entire subject in just a few pages or paragraphs. If you find yourself straying toward a one word topic like this, it may be best to choose one a subheading of such a topic to narrow down your results. Examples of art topics could be 'The usage of yellow in Van Gogh's works', 'Comparing romanticism and dadaism', or 'Analyzing Picasso's 1940's works.'

    Avoid narrow subjects. Having an extremely niche area of focus has its potential benefits, but given the need for a variety of documented sources to support your research it may not be wise to stick to something that is intensely focused on smaller details of a subject. Think carefully about your topic if you find yourself leaning toward specificity. Pre-researching can give you a quick check into how much research is truly out there. For instance, topic ideas like 'Practicality of hats in 1630's Spain' will likely not generate many results when searching in databases or even online. Niche research topics certainly have their place, but they may not be wise choices for college assignments.

    A good rule of thumb is to have two main key words to deal with, which can then be broken down into subgenres or expanded to related base topics to help search. Some examples 'Feminist themes in Shakespeare', 'Economic analysis of Nintendo', 'Pollution and the Mississippi River'. You can break these main topic ideas into two words: Feminist/Shakespeare, Economic/Nintendo, Pollution/Mississippi River. From there you can think or related keywords to help in your search.

    Resources for Pre-Research:

    Can I use Wikipedia?

    Wikipedia is essentially an online encyclopedia that anyone (including you) can edit.  Like any encyclopedia or other reference resources (i.e. dictionaries, atlases), they are not the "end all be all".  Use them as a tool to help inspire your research.

    Do watch out for any warnings at the bottom of the page.  Because anyone can edit Wikipedia entries, the information may not be accurate, unbiased, contain citations, etc.