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Introduction to the CalArts Library

Getting Started

When choosing a topic, consider the following:

  1. What are the requirements of the topic (subject area, etc.)?
  2. Is there a viable research question or problem to address?
  3. Is the topic interesting either to you or your reader?
  4. Is there enough information/sources that you will have access to?

Topic elements to consider 

  • Time period:
    •  Industrial revolution
    • The Bronze Age
    • A specific decade: 1950s
  • Geography
    • Region
    • City
    • Country
  • Age group/generation of people
    •  Generation X
    • Baby boomers
    • Teens
    • Tweens
    • Elderly/senior
  • Politics of region
    • Democracy
    • Communism
    • Monarchy

Creating Research Topics and Questions

After spending a little time narrowing or broadening your topic as needed it's time to create research questions for your topic. This will help you explore your topic by giving you concrete way to move forward. 

A good way to start is to think about Why Your Topic is Significant? If you can't answer this question in a meaningful way, then you need to make some changes. I always recommend asking yourself - why should anyone care about this topic?

Topic: Hazing rituals withing the US Marines

This topic is significant because hazing rituals can create a foundation for the type of soldier a man or woman will become and how he or she will approach their duties. With globalization and the current wars and conflicts the United States is involved in, our soldiers are located in many different regions of the world and act as representatives of our country. Not only is their training very important to understand, but the adverse effects can have a tremendous influence over a soldier. 

What are the interesting aspects of your topic? What are some of the pieces of your topic?

  • Hazing (issues involved in hazing)
  • Military training 
  • Special forces vs regular services (Marines vs Navy)

Then some questions can start to surface:

  • What are some of the hazing ritruals in the Marines? Are some of the current hazing rituals new or have they been incorporated for many years? 
  • What is the purpose of hazing in general? Give its adverse affects, why does it often get passed down generation to generation?
  • Is there any positive effects related to hazing? 
  • How does hazing in the Marines contribute to an individual as a soldier?



Topic too broad: Photography

Why this is a problem:

  • There's no research question to pull out of this topic
  • You will be overwhelmed with the amount of information you find
  • Too much information to be covered in one paper

Topic too narrow: Use of photography in Vietnam's Bac Kan province in the 1950s 

Why this topic is a problem:

  • You will not find enough information
  • You will likely not have the the time to find the specialized information that is needed
  • You will become frustrated quickly!