Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research Paper Help

Pick A Topic

If you are stuck trying to decide on a topic for your paper, there are a few ways to generate ideas. 

  1. Scan newspaper headlines 
  2. Browse chapter titles in your textbook
  3. Check out what's trending 
  4. Use the "Browse Issues" section in the Opposing Viewpoints Database

Understanding the Lingo

Conducting research can be difficult when you are unfamiliar with the terms being used to describe certain types of items. If your instructor asks you to use a periodical, would you know what they meant? If you had to locate the call number in an item’s record, could you? It is important to familiarize yourself with what particular library words mean. 

Refer to the files below. The Definitions handout and Types of Periodicals chart will be particularly useful to keep and use in future classes. 

Background Knowledge

When you begin a research project, it is a good idea to take a moment to reflect on your prior knowledge of the topic area. How much do you already know about this topic? How confident are you in moving forward with this topic? In most cases, you will need to do a bit of research to get some general information on your topic. 

A great way to gather background information is through using reference materials such as Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, especially important if you are unfamiliar with a subject area or unsure from what angle to approach a topic. Background research serves many purposes: 

  • It can provide an authoritative overview 
  • It makes key issues apparent 
  • It provides relevant names, dates, and events to the subject area 
  • It alerts us to keywords and other subject-specific vocabulary 
  • It gives us references and bibliographies for further investigation

‚ÄčThe library has access to encyclopedias and dictionaries in print and online through particular databases. Some great general subject matter reference databases can be found by clicking on the Databases tab, then the "Browse by Discipline" link. You should then see a link for Reference. You can also click on a heading that relates specifically to your topic. You will most likely see a small blue icon with the letters "REF" next to a few of the database titles in the list. These are subject specific reference databases and will also be helpful in your searching. 

Below you will find a list of online Reference databases that may be helpful in your research. This list is not exhaustive, but it is an example of the types of materials available