Info Search exploring your topic

Before you can decide on a focus, you need to explore your topic, to become informed about the topic, to build on your knowledge and experience. You'll be locating books, articles, videos, internet and other resources about your topic and reading to learn! You're looking for an issue, an aspect, a perspective on which to focus your research paper.

This is the first step in which you'll probably be checking books out of the library. Encyclopedias won't be much help here. You're looking for treatments of your topic which are either more comprehensive or more specific than an encyclopedic treatment, with various authors' summaries, analyses and opinions. But, until you've chosen a focus, you're not really on a mission of gathering information. If you gather information on the topic as a whole, you'll waste a lot of time doing it and have way too much to sort through when you are ready to write your paper. Resist the temptation to "gather" until you've chosen a focus.

Now you'll be using the library's online catalog, online indexes and the Web search engines along with the reference room and the subject-based Web directories. Learn how in the Info Search section (p. 20).

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