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GQS 494: Gender Research Seminar: Exploring Topics

Why should I use tertiary sources?

You might be wondering why a GQS 494 student would use tertiary sources such as subject encyclopedias. The quick answer is that they can be excellent resources for identifying primary and secondary sources. Additionally, it can't hurt to make sure you have a good sense of how your research question fits in with other scholarly research that has been done--and the bibliographies at the end of encyclopedia articles are an efficient way to make sure you know who the scholars are who've been working on this topic.

Remember that tertiary sources are intended to fill in gaps in your knowledge or jumpstart your research; they should not be cited as scholarly secondary sources for your project.

Online Reference Collections

Subject Encyclopedias

Start with these subject encyclopedias and branch out as needed. If your research question is interdisciplinary, you may wish to consult additional encyclopedias in other disciplines. Use the Research by Subject pages to explore more options.

Featured Resources

Concept Map Overview

A concept map is:

  • a visual tool for generating and organizing ideas
  • a way to explore different aspects of a topic
  • a method for triggering word associations

Use a concept map to:

  • aid thinking at the beginning of the research process
  • create a visual overview of a topic
  • develop questions on a topic
  • reveal patterns, themes, and associations between ideas
  • generate search terms to conduct research

Tools for Concept Mapping

You can create a concept map with pencil and paper or use one of these free online tools:

How to Create a Concept Map

Concept mapping is a great strategy to use as you develop your thesis. Concept mapping emphasizes relational thinking and can help you see the connections (or lack thereof) between the various elements of your research. 

Ask yourself: what do I already know about my topic? what am I curious about? what kind of information do I need, and where am I likely to find it?

Think about what the various perspectives are on this topic, and what you do or don't know about them.  Who is studying this topic? What types of research have been done? What connections could be made between these sources?

The process is simple: start with the subject of your research question in the center, then:

  • In the space around the central concept, write words or phrases for any relevant subtopics.
  • For each of your focus subtopics, add related terms/concepts to your map.
  • Continue to fill out your branches with ideas or questions about types of resources you may wish to start with.