Whether you are assigned a research topic or you are given the choice to select your own, try to select a topic that interests you or an approach that interests you. Always consider your assignment requirements:
You can always do some preliminary research on a general topic to see what's been written about it and what aspect you'd like to focus on.
Turning your research topic into a series of research questions will help guide your search and ultimately help you use that research to complete your project. Good research questions should be
While many of our library databases allow you to filter your search results to scholarly articles, it is still helpful to know the differences between popular and scholarly sources to ensure that you are fulfilling your assignment requirements. This chart summarizes some of the main distinctions between the two types of sources.
|Characteristics||Popular Source||Scholarly Source|
|Written by||staff writers, reporters, or freelance journalists||researchers, experts in a particular field|
|Audience||general public||academics, someone familiar with the field|
|Language||easy to understand and nontechnical||discipline-specific, often contains jargon|
|Length & scope||short, provides a broad overview of a topic||lengthy, provides in-depth coverage and analysis of a topic|
|Citation & research||
rarely cites sources and often reports on research conducted by others
cites sources and provides extensive references, often presents original research
|Sponsored by||corporate or nonprofit organizations||universities and other educational institutions as well as professional, nonprofit associations|
Determining where to start your search depends on a variety of factors, including:
If you are looking for the most recent statistics on mental health and college students, a government or organizational website will most likely be a better place to begin than a published scholarly book. If you're looking for research articles published in scholarly journals, a library database or Google Scholar search will be more effective than a general internet search.
If the topic is new to you and you are still deciding what you want to focus on, you may want to begin with a broad search using the UCF Library's Primo Search, Google Scholar, or a reputable encyclopedia. This will help you identify key concepts and debates about your topic and narrow your topic to a manageable research project. If you are already familiar with the topic and have a clear idea of what you want to focus on, a subject database would be the best place to start.
Since many resources are organized by subject, it's also helpful to consider whether your topic covers multiple topics. For example, examining mental health issues in college students, deals with multiple disciplines such as education and psychology.