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Choose Who You Want To Be

ENG 112 Tip Sheet

Start With Encyclopedias & Background Information

Why is an encyclopedia article on my topic a good place to begin?

Encyclopedia articles are useful, because they:

  • Provide an overview of the topic and relevant context, including main concepts, key terms, important events, statistics, and landmark legal cases.
  • Explain controversies associated with the topic.
  • Jumpstart thinking about keywords.
  • Help to answer the question: Which aspect(s) of the topic will I write about?

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Tips for Developing Your Topic

  1. Ask Questions to Refine Your Topic: 5Ws & 1H
    Asking questions about your topic can help to focus it.  The 5Ws & 1H are: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.  Sometimes, we begin research with a vague notion of what we plan to write about. However, asking questions can help you to transform a fuzzy idea into something more concrete.

  2. Find Background Information to Refine Your Topic:
    Another way of focusing your topic is to find background information on it. Reference sources, such as encyclopedias, provide information about key concepts, events, and people associated with your topic.

  3. Create a Research Question or Topic Statement & Identify Keywords
    At some point during the research process, you'll be able to articulate questions or statements to guide your research.  You can pull keywords from a research question or topic statement and plug them into library databases.