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University of Minnesota

Kathryn A. Martin Library

WRIT 3160: Advanced Writing: Social Sciences Research Guide

Find Background Information

Begin with a general idea of your topic then look for information to help you focus on specific concepts, generate keywords for your searches, and narrow down the topic. In this part of the process you're browsing and doing a little reading to get familiar with the topic and generate ideas.

  • Start with a basic source like Wikipedia to get definitions and background info.
  • Popular sources such as newspapers or magazines provide general information on current issues. 
  • Books are also helpful for background reading, even scanning the table of contents can help you learn about your topic. 

Plan Your Search

Identify Potential Sources
  • Newspapers - current events, issues, and trends; local information; interviews

  • Books - thorough discussion and in-depth treatment of a topic

  • Articles - original research; scholarly analysis of a single question; narrower treatment of a topic

  • Government Information - statistics; technical reports; legislative and judicial actions; publications from federal, state, and local agencies

  • Popular sources: newspapers, magazines, non-profit organizations, websites, blogs - current trends; popular perceptions of a topic; marginalized voices; advocacy

  • Videos: documentaries and fictional films - interviews; visual representations; on scene reporting; storytelling

Choose where to search

What is a Peer Reviewed Journal?

  • Your instructors may frequently require you to find peer-reviewed articles for your assignments. These can also be called academic journal articles or scholarly articles. 
  • Academic journals are how experts communicate with each other about what’s going on in their field.
  • Authors of articles are experts in the field who want to share their research findings with other experts. 
  • Before publication, the author’s peers review the article and evaluate it to decide if it should be published, revised, or rejected. While this process is designed to ensure that published articles meet high standards for quality, originality, and legitimacy, it still important to evaluate academic articles critically.