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ENGL 115 Their Eyes Were Watching God: African American Literature and the Bible: Research a Topic

Research a Topic in 4 Easy Steps

Step 1: Define your TOPIC and your ANGLE

Reference works -- encyclopedias, bibliographies, dictionaries -- can help you define the parameters of your topic. Try these:

Aside from background information, you'll also need to pick a specific angle. Since your paper is likely 8-10 pages, double spaced, you don't want to pick a book-length topic!

icon of a brain

Think about: What perspective do you plan to study -- historical, sociological, or political? Are you interested in the events leading up to it, or its consequences? Are there any other angles? Literary, perhaps? By clarifying and refining your questions you can approach the topic more systematically and identify relevant sources.

In this process, jot down terms and keywords to use in your search. When you begin looking for resources, keep track of which search terms have been useful, and consider alternate terms or synonyms. For more on this idea, see the tab "Search Techniques".

Step 2: Find out what has been ALREADY written

Once you have chosen a specific topic, search the literature (using your various keywords!) to see what has already been written on the topic. Start by looking for books and journal articles.

icon of a newspaper Pro-tip: Once you have at least ONE relevant book or journal article, scan the bibliography or works cited. If anything pops out at you, search for the book or article title in Quicksearch to see if the library has a copy.


Step 3: Consider multiple RESOURCE TYPES

Thorough research requires consulting multiple resource types (books, journals, newspapers, maps, datasets, statistics, the list goes on and on...). The Yale Library has lots and LOTS of resource types to chose from -- many of which can be found in Orbis and Quicksearch.

icon of a magnifying glass What is a primary source? A primary source provides firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic or question under investigation. Consult Primary Sources at Yale for more information, and for tips on how to identify resources (think: manuscripts!).

Step 4: Look FURTHER

The Yale Library consists of 15 libraries which combined have over 15 million resources. However, for a major research project you may find that what you need exists elsewhere. Use the Search Techniques tab to help your surface relevant material, and keep in mind that you also have access to:

Get a Little Help

Research guides have been put together by Yale librarians to help you get started in the research process. They can help you... 

  • formulate a research strategy for a specific topic

  • find information about print and electronic resources

  • identify relevant databases

  • ...and more!

Don't forget that you also have a Personal Librarian, who can help with all of these things, too!

Image Citations

From the Noun Project:

  • "Brain" icon by Vladimir Belochkin
  • "Article" icon by Setyo Ari Wibowo
  • "Evidence" icon by Alina Oleynik