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.
When you're starting your research, you need to have a balance between brainstorming and looking for external sources.
You want to be able to feel out what you know from the top of your head and explore what you think sounds like an interesting idea, on the one hand.
On the other hand, you want to make sure you're not going too far in the wrong direction while you're still at the starting line.
It can be tempting to think you'll save time by diving right in, but taking the time to do your background research will help in the long run! Benefits include:
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.
Organize Your Thoughts With a Mind Map
Mind maps are useful for capturing the connections between your ideas and revealing where you might have discovered more layers of information. You can record ideas going from broad to specific, or vice versa. As you do your background research, continue to take notes on your mind map to help flesh it out.
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.
Credo is an easy-to-use tool for starting research. Includes materials from over 650 reference books on a variety of topics in higher education, including art, business, history, languages, literature, science, criminal justice, and political science.