After choosing a topic, you will need to locate sources that give basic background information about the subject. Finding background information at the beginning of your research is especially important if you are unfamiliar with the subject area, or not sure from what angle to approach your topic. Some of the information that a background search can provide includes:
For help further investigating a topic, consider browsing an electronic subject encyclopedia to gain a broad overview of a topic first, particularly one you may be unfamiliar with. We also have many print encyclopedias-- general subject and topic-specific-- in the library (click here to browse the library catalog for print encyclopedias). Once you choose a topic that interests you, these types of books can be a good resource to gather some basic facts and background information on your topic.
Now that you have your topic and are armed with some broader information about your topic, you can begin to think of ways to narrow your topic so that it fits with the length of your paper; you want a topic broad enough that will provide you with enough information but not so broad that you have problems focusing your paper.
Example: Too-broad a topic:
The library has hundreds of books and thousands of articles about eating disorders. One way to narrow "eating disorders" to a manageable topic is to combine it with specific concepts:
...Hollywood, Colleges & Universities; Canada, etc.
...Now, Early 20th century, Victorian Period, etc.
...Women, Men, Athletes, Adolescents, etc.
...Anorexia, Bulimia, EDNOS, Pica, Orthorexia, etc.
Examples: Narrower topics: