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EH 105_Noletto: Researching Knowledge, Education, & Survival

This guide provides a quick reference for a variety of resources, tools, and strategies to aid you while exploring your topics. Use this to get started, but we encourage you to reach out to a librarian to learn more and workshop your topics as needed!

Mind Mapping or Brainstorming Topics into a Searchable Thesis

While you may start with a basic concept to explore, often that topic will change and grow as you find resources or encounter disparate viewpoints that uncover new ways to approach or refine a given concept. Even a relatively broad topic needs a bit of refinement. Let's say you were exploring the rather broad notion of public education reform. That phrase has the potential to become an overwhelming research project, as many factors and interested parties come into the picture. Rather than tackling the whole of public education, perhaps focus on particular areas than can be improved in a specific way. While you can certainly make a thesis statement addressing how public education needs to be reformed by making "X" changes to "Y" policies so that "Z" group of people are better critical thinkers as adults, it's probably better to at least address how changing specific aspects will affect the broader issue.

For example, one way to catalyze reform in public schools might be to address the breadth of topics covered in high school history courses. Are there certain events or peoples marginalized or left out altogether? If so, how is that affecting the child's worldview, empathy, and biases?With this more focused idea in mind, consider the below process for your own Mind Mapping purposes. Whether researching telemedicine in the time of COVID, societal reform, or any sort of human response to crisis, consider the following. What is your issue, Who/What group does it effect/is effected by, How/Why is this effecting them, and what is a potential Proposed Solution(s) for this crisis? When brainstorming, try the below exercise. I'll use my example regarding historical events omitted from school texts:

  • Consider/write down the basic topic you are interested in
      • Ex.-- history omitted from textbooks

  • Write down a question or statement you’d like to argue/explore regarding your topic:

    • Omitting controversial events from history textbooks in high school contributes to oppressive attitudes and behavior once those students become adults. 

  • Take note of the “action” terms in your query; pull those out to use as search terms (major terms, people)
    • Omission, history, textbooks, high school, oppression

    • Write down a few synonyms/phrases for those words or related terms of note

      • You will use these as supplemental search terms as needed

        • Bias, racism, sexism, secondary education, history curriculum, selective history

So, in the exercise above, I built a statement I could further argue for/against and research to make that point. It simultaneously helped me develop some potentially useful terms and ideas for a search vocabulary that I can leverage in a search engine like Google, or even within a curated library database for more scholarly sources. Spending a few minutes refining your topic will save you some time and facilitate a more efficient search experience later!