An Online Tutorial Taking You Through the Steps of the Library Research Process Finding a Focus

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Tutorial Contents:
  1. Library Map & Virtual Tour
  2. Avoiding Impulse Buys
  3. Size & Shape of Information
  4. Most Bang for Your Buck
  5. Trying it on for Size
  6. Don't Shoplift!


Most often we begin with a general idea for a topic that is not yet developed into a manageable focus for our paper.  If you select a broad, general topic like animal rights, there are many different aspects to that topic.  It would be impossible to cover all of the dimensions of that topic in any great detail given the confines of a typical research paper assignment.

To avoid a cursory treatment of your topic, you want to develop your topic into a manageable focus. 

You can limit your topic by time and place, but most often it is easiest to focus in on just one issue related to a broader topic.  For example, we might choose to write about using animals to test cosmetics.  That is one aspect or issue related to the animal rights debate. 

Gathering Some Preliminary Information:

If you do not know a lot about your topic to begin with or are not sure about issues related to your topic, it is best to gather some preliminary information.  Reference sources are a good place to begin.  General or subject specific encyclopedias will provide you with background information and a concise overview of your topic, which is especially useful if your paper is intended to be informative in nature.   Reference sources that cover current/controversial issues will help if you are asked to write a persuasive or argumentative paper.  Reference sources can help you discover a focus for your paper because they will introduce you to different issues related to a general broad topic.

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