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English Research Guide

Reference Sources

Reference resources help you choose, explore and develop your topic! Reference sources such as encyclopedias and dictionaries contain overviews and background information. They sometimes contain statistics, definitions and lists of resources for further study. When you have a better understanding of your topic, it will be easier to come up with the search terms you'll use to find the books and articles you need.

Wikipedia is a reference source because it is an encyclopedia. You can use it to discover ideas and links to additional resources -- but never cite it as a source in your papers! This rule exists because Wikipedia entries can be edited at any time, by anyone, and so its accuracy can never be relied upon at any given moment.

Exploring a Topic

These resources can help you to refine your topic or familiarize yourself with an issue. They make a great starting point when you have a general idea of a research topic, but you still need to narrow it down.

Selecting and Narrowing Topics

What makes a good research topic? (2 min 35 secs)
Do you already have an opinion on the topic? (1 min 24 secs)
Developing a more specific topic for your research assignment (2 min 48 secs)