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Library Basics - Online Edition

Need to find resources for your paper or project? Here's a quick guide that will introduce you to some of the basic resources that you can use for your paper or project. This Online Edition focuses on just the resources that the library provides online.

Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic for your paper or project can be a challenge. It is easy to tend to find a topic that is either too broad, "I want to write a 2 page paper on war," or too narrow, "I want to write a paper on the use of homing pigeons in the Battle of the Bulge."  Finding resources for a topic that is either too broad or not narrow can become extremely frustrating. Here are some hints in developing your topic:

  • Contact Your Professor: This is usually your best bet.  Your professor can give you ideas of where to go with your topic and what is appropriate for the course.  Their guidance can help make your paper go from good to great.
  • General Strategies: When you are searching for your topic, see how many results you get. If you get too many to browse through in a sitting, try adding terms to get the topic narrower. If you are only getting five results and none them look promising, try to broaden you topic by either removing a search term or going to a broader concept. (Instead of "Hurricanes in Kansas," just try "Hurricanes.")
  • Using Other Resources: Resources like dictionaries, encyclopedias, and similar sorts of things can help you get an overview of what others have written on a topic. Those resources have a wealth of terms that you can mine for research. See the Using Other Resources page for more hints on how to use this strategy.
  • Using Subject Terms: The library catalog and the article databases both use subject terms to describe their resources. You can use subject terms to see how topics are described and then to use those terms to search for similar books or articles. See the Using Subject Terms page for more hints on using this strategy.