The first step toward making a general subject into a workable topic for any research project is defining the terms under which you are working. What exactly is research? You may think of it in terms of gathering information and presenting it in a coherent fashion. But true research, according to Paul Leedy’s Practical Research:Planning and Design, is “a procedure by which we attempt to find systematically, and with the support of demonstrable fact, the answer to a question or the resolution of a problem.”(Leedy, 1989, p.5) You are no longer just presenting information in a readable format; instead, you are answering a question that has never been resolved or has never been approached in quite the same manner.
For graduate students especially, the distinction between information gathering and research is more than just semantic – it has implications for the kinds of papers you will write and the approaches you will take towards solving the problem you present in your paper. Finding an original topic or a new slant to a subject, however, requires that you familiarize yourself with what has already been written in your area of interest.
Once you’ve decided on your topic, it’s time to begin finding out fundamental information about it. Almost all disciplines have subject-specific bibliographies. Some sports-specific bibliographies owned by the Academy library that may also be available to you elsewhere are:
A particularly good source for information in all areas, not just in sport, is a reference book owned by many libraries: Sheehy, E.P. (1986). Guide to Reference Books. (10th ed.). Chicago: American Library Association. There are supplements to the 10th edition that cover later years. The call number at Academy is REF Z1035.1 .S43 1986.
For general periodicals in your area of interest, check out another source often used by librarians: Katz, B. and Katz, L.S. (1992) Magazines for Libraries. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker. There have been new editions since 1992; this is the year owned by the Academy library. The call number is REF Z6941 .K2 1992.
Dictionaries, encyclopedias and textbooks are also good sources of information when you are first exploring a topic, and they will often contain bibliographies that will be useful when you are compiling information. Remember though that these sources only provide background information. For more detailed studies, you need to search out periodical articles and books on your topic.
Leedy, P.D. (1989). Practical Research: Planning and Design (4th ed.). New York: Macmillan.