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Ecology Research Guide

Suggested Sources for Finding Articles, Books and Images in Ecology

Choosing a Topic

Brainstorming Ideas

There are several things to think about when selecting a topic:

  • First, have you been assigned a topic or are you free to choose a topic?
  • Next, how many words or pages do you need to write (or how long does a presentation have to be)?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources in your citations?
  • Finally, if you can select your own topic, what are you passionate about or most interested in from the class?

If you still need help choosing your topic, chat with us, send an email or contact a librarian from the sidebar

Understanding Your Assignment

Understanding exactly what you are being asked to do and the type of information you need to accomplish it will also help you in choosing a topic.

Watch this helpful video on how to better understand your assignment.

Finding Your Question

From Topic to Question : Narrow Your Research Topic Using Sources      Topic         Sources: Background info such as Internet Browse, Wikipedia, Books         Example: Effect of Social Media on Health     Broad Question         Sources: Secondary Sources such as Scholarly Articles         Example: What is the effect of social media on health     More Specific Question         Sources: Secondary Sources such as Scholarly Articles         Example: How are teen eating disorders affected by social media?     Research Question         Sources: Primary sources such as research articles, case studies, data and statistics         Example: Can reducing social media exposure reduce eating disorders in adolescents?  Tips      Use quotation marks around phrases     Use boolean operators between search terms (and, not, or)     Use limiters like Date, Material Type, and Subject to help narrow your search.     Example: "social media" and "eating disorders" and adolescents

"From Topic to Question" infographic accessible text

Narrowing Your Topic

Narrowing a Topic

If you need to narrow a topic from a broad subject to a specific research question or thesis statement, one of the easiest ways is by asking yourself the 5Ws – who, what, where, when, and why. You don't have to answer all the questions, but should answer enough so that your topic is manageable to research and will fit within your assignment length requirement.

the 5Ws


Alternative Text

  • Who
    • What population or group do you want to look at? Is there an age group to focus on?
    • Examples: College students, seniors, children, teens
  • What
    • What is the subject area or discipline? Does it meet your assignment requirements?
    • Examples: Terrorism, American Revolution, Agriculture
  • Where
    • What geographic location do you want to focus on? This can be a city, state, country, or other.
    • Examples: Chicago, Montana, Great Britain, North America
  • When
    • What time period are you wanting to cover with your research? Is it historical or current?
    • Examples: 2000 - present, 1776 -1780, Overview of 1800 - today
  • Why
    • Why is the topic important? To you? To your course of study? To society as a whole?
    • Examples: Personal experience, major theory, current event

Suggested Tutorials

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