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INT 101: Bullington

This guide introduces you to conducting research at Mercer University and contains information and sources to help you complete your research assignment.

Background Reading & Forming a Topic

When you first start working on an assignment, it can be very helpful to spend a few minutes thinking about your topic and where you want to go with the assignment. For some topics, you might need to start by doing pre-research, where you look for general background information on your topic to learn a little more. This background information then helps you focus your search and choose a topic to write about. Try some of the following strategies if you're not sure where to start:

  • If you don't have a topic in mind, try looking at CQ Researcher or TOPICsearch, or just looking at recent news, to generate ideas
  • Try to imagine what words someone answering your research question might use
  • Look up synonyms and related topics or phrases
  • Try working with a partner – getting a different perspective is often invaluable
  • Identify any common misunderstandings or related topics that you DON’T want in your results

Scholarly & Popular Articles

(For more information, see this guide)

Most sources of information fall into one of these two categories. Here's how they're different:

"Scholarly" (aka "academic" or "peer-reviewed") periodicals are usually published by an association, institution, or scholarly press. They contain articles written by scholars, professors, and researchers in a particular discipline, and are intended for other scholars and researchers in the field. Articles published in these journals are sent to other experts in the field to be reviewed prior to publication.

“Popular” periodicals are publications that are intended for the general public, and whose main purpose is usually entertainment. Articles in these publications are generally written by paid journalists or columnists, and reviewed by an editor.

Reasons to use Scholarly Sources:
  • They are generally the most highly valued source of information in academic circles
  • They are written by and reviewed by experts in the field
  • The information they contain critically examines some aspect of the world
Reasons to use Popular Sources:
  • They are easier to understand because they are written for the general public
  • They are more likely to contain information on recent events
  • They can give you an insight into what type of information is available to the general populace on a subject

Citing Sources


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