Pick a topic you enjoy! You want something that is broad enough that you can find information and yet narrow enough that you are not overwhelmed with sources.
Think critically about web sites and print resources.
When using information from another source you must give credit to the original author or you are plagiarizing. You give credit by citing the source. Make sure your citation contains everything you would need to backtrack and find the information again. It is best to pick one citation style and be consistent.
Plagiarism, whether you copy a paragraph from a book or cut and paste someone else's words from an e-mail, is a violation of Penn State's academic integrity policy.
When working on extensive research projects, you will need to collect, organize and format all those citations!
The following tools are appropriate to use at Penn State. They all allow you to store and search for your references, as well as link with MS Word to easily create in-text citations and bibliographies.
Always ask a Librarian if you are having trouble!
Combining Search terms by using AND/OR/NOT
These 'connector' terms (often called "Boolean operators") are used to combine search terms and concepts.
Research questions serve two purposes:
Firstly: Research questions focus your topic from something very large into a more focused query that you can answer in your assignment. Sometimes assignments focus on a single large research question, others build in multiple smaller questions.
Secondly: Research questions allow you to use multiple concepts to create a more powerful search. Databases don't always produce good results when searching for a single concept.
It is very easy to go overboard with really big ideas! Remember, a quality topic is one that you can address thoroughly in the full length of your assignment. Avoid single concepts, generally. Some examples are:
Instead think about focusing on:
It's also very easy to get an idea that is so focused that it is essentially impossible to research, often because scholars just haven't looked at that issue yet. Check when you pick a topic that you can find a variety reliable sources on what you plan to address. Some examples are:
Instead, think about focusing on: