WS 101: Introduction to Womens Studies: Background Information and Refining Your Topic

Deepen Your Understanding of your Topic

 At some point in your research process (often at an early point), it's useful to search for information in ways that are LESS specific than your research question. Overview and background sources, such as encyclopedias and some books, can give you a broader sense of the history or scale of your topic. They can give you a sense of concepts that are related to your topic and help you identify the keywords (or authors or theorists) that are important for your question.

Background Information Video

This three-minute video shows how to find background information

Search for Subject Encyclopedias (PSU Only)

Online Subject Encyclopedias

Encyclopedias are tremendously useful resources, especially for researching a new topic. Encyclopedias provide summaries of research topics to get you up to speed quickly: important research findings and researchers, discussions and critiques of theoretical models and methodologies. The summary is followed by a bibliography, leading you to the important articles and books in that area.

Subject Encyclopedias

Scholarly subject encyclopedias provide background information about specific topics. Entries or articles, written by scholars or subject experts, include bibliographies or suggested readings that will lead to more information on your topic.

You can use subject encyclopedias to identify keywords for your research in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Topic Development Video

This video will help you find a topic that's not too broad, not too narrow, but just right.

Using What You've Already Found to Find More Video

Even if you just find a few articles or books, it may be enough to get you going. Watch this two-minute video to see how you can stop searching and use what you've already found to find more.