Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Community Education Project

Research and writing resources for CEP faculty and student employees.

Picking a Topic

Choosing a topic is the first step in the research process. It's important to choose a topic that you're interested in, but also something that is manageable. If you pick a topic that is too broad, you will be overwhelmed with sources. Conversely, if you choose a topic that is too narrow, you may have trouble finding any sources. 

The Five Ws of journalism are important considerations, and just as applicable here when deciding on a topic:

WHO is impacted by this topic?
WHAT are the major questions surrounding it?
WHERE is your topic important?
WHY did you select it?
WHEN is or was your topic important?

Finding Sources

Search for full-text resources in OneSearch, then Google Scholar, then Google (with the EndNote Click browser plug in).

If a resource is available in the catalog, but not held by Stetson, it can be requested through Interlibrary Loan (ILL),

JSTOR Search Tips

Is it Peer Reviewed?

Not sure if your article is peer reviewed? Look for these clues:

Author. The author's credentials & institution should be listed. Authors of peer reviewed articles typically have graduate degrees and are a faculty member at a university.

Abstract. Many peer reviewed articles begin with an abstract, which is a paragraph summarizing the research.

Audience. Peer reviewed articles are written for scholars, researchers, & students who are knowledgeable about the topic, and likely use specialized terminology.

Purpose. What is the purpose of the article? Does the author want to support findings of a research project, present a case study, make an argument that is supported by evidence or research, etc.?

References. Peer reviewed articles typically include a bibliography that cites other peer reviewed sources.

Primary vs Secondary Sources

For some research projects you may be required to use primary sources. How can you identify these?

Primary Sources
A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences.

Secondary Sources
Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research.

Evaluating Sources

Avoiding Plagiarism

Have a question? Ask a librarian! Email libref@stetson.edu. Call or text 386-747-9028.