Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Doing Your Background Research
Next, you need to get acquainted with your topic. Think of it like going on a date: you're trying to get to know the other person (your topic) without scaring them off because you're trying to talk about marriage, houses, and grandkids (i.e. your "real" research) on the first date. And, of course, once you've gotten to know them better, you're able to buy them gifts and guess what they would like, because you've taken the time to establish those little basic details.
Benefits of Background Research
- CONTEXT! You can't really speak coherently about the impact of the automobile on society if you aren't also aware of what the horse-drawn carriage society was like, what the state of manufacturing was like, the purchasing power of the auto's target demographic, and so on.
- You learn the JARGON. Scholarly articles are written by experts, for experts. They don't usually take the time to remind their readers what a term or process means, since the assumption is the readers already know. This can also present a barrier to finding those articles, as well. What's a non-expert to do? You've got to learn to speak the language of the field.
- IDEA DEVELOPMENT! Let your research help you do research. As you're learning about the context and picking up on new terminology, you'll also be noticing key people, places, and events that relate to your topic... all of which will help you delve into your deeper research more effectively.
Where To Do It:
Your textbook is helpful at this stage, for starters.
Honestly? This is the time resources that are otherwise verboten are useful. You know... Wikipedia, Shmoop, or even just whatever comes up when you Google for your topic. These are not the sources you're going to cite in the end -- you just need them to give you ideas in a simple and straightforward way.
If you want an option like Wikipedia but better, check out Credo Reference (linked below). It provides short synopsis articles from reputable encyclopedias, and even has a mind map tool to help you visualize how topics relate to each other.
Useful when you're starting out on a research project. Do simple searches to find topic introductions in a variety of subjects. The mind map tool will help you discover related ideas and terms.
Develop Your Thesis
Your thesis is where you put forward your argument in a concise, declarative way. It is typically one sentence long and comes at the end of your introduction paragraph. You should only develop your thesis after you've started doing your research. You can have a thesis in mind as you start your research, of course, but be prepared to change it if you find it's unsupportable with the information available to you.
Thesis statements should be:
- Specific - lay out exactly the arguments/reasons you're using in your thesis
- Contestable - if you can find a definitive yes/no answer within a few minutes of Google searching, it's not arguable enough
- Narrow - not about all of privacy ever, but this little sliver of a privacy issue in this particular time and society
- Provable - or at least something you can persuasively argue.
A colorful and robust mind-mapping tool that allows for more complicated branching of concepts.
Free online mind-mapping tool. Use this to develop your topic ideas-- what exactly are you going to focus, what concepts relate to that topic, what words you can use to craft your search.