Use these online resources for background information.
Choose a topic and consult background information. Specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries and guides are a great time saving tool. Many of these are located in the Reference Collection on Library North 2.
These sources provide topical overviews, summarize basic concepts, and are filled with names and events you can use as keywords in your searching. Many encyclopedia articles also include carefully selected bibliographies that will lead you to additional resources.
Write a thesis statement. What argument do you want to make? What is it that you want to discover or explore?
Brainstorm possible search terms for your topic. What are the main concepts/terms in your thesis statement? These will be your initial search terms. Come up with synonyms for your terms and try combinations of terms in your searches.
Be flexible as you settle on a final topic. Do a few preliminary searches in the library catalog or article databases before commiting to a topic. You may find that you need to narrow or broaden your focus.
Cite as you go. Even if you're not sure whether you will use a source, it's much easier to note the citation information up front than to decide you need it later!