Thinking about library research
Sometimes it's useful to think about any paper you research as having essentially three distinct aspects:
Although these aspects are distinct--for example, you don't want to confuse a topic with a thesis--they can and should be related, and they will affect one another. Also, they may change as you work through your research and writing.
How thinking about area, topic, and question can help your research
Suppose that I am working on the area of education, the topic of affordable higher education, and I am thinking that my question will be How do elected officials and candidates from the various American political parties differ in their plans for making higher education more affordable to a wider range of students?
- Your area will help you pick databases or indexes to use. For the example of education, I might pick databases or indexes that provide background and general news, and may also search for information from the areas of public policy or education studies.
- Your topic will help you find key words or subject heading to use in your research.
- You should keep your question in mind as you do your searching, and see if you think you are coming up with a thesis that can be proven or if you will need to revise it as you continue your research. For example, I may find many sources that suggest that there is not a substantial difference, and I may need to address these arguments in my paper.