Wikipedia is a background source, which includes lots of helpful information. But you can't cite it for lots of reasons (anyone can edit Wikipedia entries and, even worse, we don't know who they are). So what do you do? Wikipedia is a source of background information, which comes from places like dictionaries and subject encyclopedias. Background sources provide contextual information and answer straightforward questions. They include definitions, statistics, and other details. You can use this type of source to:
Most importantly, the library has much better sources of background information, which you find on this page!
One of the hardest tasks when starting research in a new area is identifying what the major issues and concepts that can provide you with an important frame of reference. Before you start looking for in-depth information we suggest that you do the following:
Once you have identified important concepts translate them into keywords or short phrases so that you can start to search. As you conduct your research you will be able to identify additional and more specific search terms.
As you start searching select one term or phrase from Column A and one term or phrase from Column B. Run additional searches with alternate terms from each column.
Sample Question: I want to learn more about the environmental impacts associated with global warming.
(Use as Needed)
|Starting Search Terms & Phrases and Alternates||environmental impact
|More Specific Terms & Phrases Related to Each Concept||agriculture
What makes a research question "researchable"? (Courtesy of Northern Kentucky University Steely Library)
Use AND to focus search and combine different aspects of your topic.
Example: global warming AND environment
Use OR to expand your search and find synonyms or related terms.
Example: global warming OR greenhouse effect
Use NOT to exclude a word or phrase from your search.
Example: global warming NOT China