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Apocalyptic Comedy

Choosing Your Topic

Sometimes you have too many ideas... or you have no idea where to begin.

Image result for Full of ideas   or   Image result for eMPTY HEADED

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Getting Started 

  • Make sure you understand your assignment. Talk to your professor or graduate assistant if you have any questions.
  • Think about your interests. What would you like to spend time learning more about? Look over your course materials and lecture notes for ideas. Write down a list of keywords and phrases that interest you.
  • Use a topic ideas database such as Points of View Reference Center or Opposing Viewpoints. Read current periodicals, browse the internet, and check out reference resources and encyclopedias such as Oxford Research Encyclopedias
  • Be careful not to pick a topic too narrow or too broad. You might not be able to find enough relevant information or you might be overwhelmed with too much information. As you start your research, you might need to adjust your topic. 
  • Check out the Research Guide for your subject area, which will include links to helpful resources commonly used by researchers. Our subject specialist librarians create these guides -- contact yours with questions and to get personalized help with your research. 

General Background Information

As you begin your research, learning more about fields of study relevant to your focus will help you create more effective searches. The Hiram College Library  owns many general and specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries that provide this background information.

Listed below are some general reference sources and databases of encyclopedias and dictionaries.

Generating Ideas - Popular places to search

Hiram College Library Local Catalog

Search for books using Hiram College Library catalog.

Hiram College Library Local Catalog

Advanced Search

Keywords vs Subject Terms

Subject headings describe the content of each item in a database. Use these headings to find relevant items on the same topic.  Searching by subject headings (a.k.a. descriptors) is the most precise way to search article databases.

It is not easy to guess which subject headings are used in a given database. For example, the phone book's Yellow Pages use subject headings. If you look for "Movie Theatres" you will find nothing, as they are listed under the subject heading "Theatres - Movies."

Keyword searching is how you typically search web search engines.  Think of important words or phrases and type them in to get results.

Here are some key points about each type of search:

 

Keywords
vs.
Subjects
  • natural language words describing your topic - good to start with
 
  • pre-defined "controlled vocabulary" words used to describe the content of each item (book, journal article) in a database
  • more flexible to search by - can combine together in many ways
 
  • less flexible to search by - need to know the exact controlled vocabulary term
  • database looks for keywords anywhere in the record - not necessarily connected together
 
  • database looks for subjects only in the subject heading or descriptor field, where the most relevant words appear
  • may yield too many or too few results
 
  • if too many results - also uses subheadings to focus on one aspect of the broader subject
  • may yield many irrelevant results
 
  • results usually very relevant to the topic

When you search a database and do not get the results you expect, Ask Us for advice.