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I want to learn more about a possible topic


It is very tempting to jump in and start searching right away, before you understand the background of your topic. Background research will help you develop a more effective topic as well as brainstorm for better search terms; thus, write a better paper.

  • First and foremost, your instructor is a great resource! They understand your assignment and can provide great advice about the topic and how to frame it.
  • Come to the King Library and talk to a librarian in person. You can also reach us by email, phone, or chat. For details, see Ask a Librarian!
  • If there are journals related to the general area you are studying, look through recent tables of contents for ideas and background information on possible topics. Use OneSearch to search on your topic then limit to Journals under Resource Type, which you'll see on the left of your results list (you may need to click the Show More link under Resource Type).
  • Reference books are useful for developing your topic and finding keywords because they contain brief scholarly entries related to a discipline. Search Encyclopedias and Dictionaries.
  • Get more ideas for reference books for background, specifically subject encyclopedias, by checking out the Research Guides.

Here are a few useful databases for exploring potential topics:

  • CQ Researcher
    Offers reports on key issues in the U.S. Congress from 1923 to the present. Includes a searchable archive by keyword, date, or subject.
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context
    Maintains controversial contemporary topic summaries and overviews of current issues that include aspects of the issues along with pro and con arguments and opinions.
  • Oxford Reference Online
    Contains full text subject encyclopedias, reference works, dictionaries, and handbooks in all disciplines.