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Loyola University Chicago Libraries

Senn High School 2021: Home

Your Topic Development Process

Watch this video (11:32) to discover strategies for discovering a research topic that matters to you, your readers, and the world! This step matters. You will invest too much of your time on this project not to select a topic that genuinely piques your intellectual curiosity. Choose carefully and then dedicate yourself to learning as much as you can about your topic.

Note that the final approximately 90 seconds of this video transition to content used in 2020. Please disregard that instruction.

  Download a transcript of this video.

Topic development content created by Terri Artemchik and Tracy Ruppman, Research and Learning Librarians, Loyola University Chicago, with support from 2019-2020 intern Emily Cukier.

Information Privilege and the Open Access Movement

A privileged researcher has access to a wealth of information made available to them by paid subscription and due to their affiliation with an academic library. Examples of information privilege include:

  • Ejournal collections containing hundreds of academic journals, including those with the longest publication histories and greatest prestige;
  • Book collections, print and electronic, representing the finest scholarship from centuries ago through the present day; and
  • Full text reading free of paywalls or time limits.

Like all kinds of privilege, activists can challenge information privilege to make the research landscape more equitable. The Open Access Movement seeks to do just that and it's working! Today thousands of journals provide free access to all researchers, though limitations still exist and information privilege continues to favor some researchers over others. Undergraduate students have much to gain from open access and can join the movement.

Recommended Open Access Research Opportunities

Digital Research Resources through the Chicago Public Library

You have access to the research databases subscribed to by the Chicago Public Library. Researchers must log in before accessing database content. Information about obtaining access appears below.

For scholar-level content, consider the research databases listed below. Others in the CPL list may also help but it may be more suitable for general readers rather than scholars. 

    • Note that articles from magazines, newspapers, and journals appear in search results; you will find the scholar-level content in the journals.
    • Apply the same article type filter in this database as described for ABI/INFORM.
    • This edition of JSTOR provides articles from a smaller number of journals than you can access through the Independent Researcher Program described earlier in this guide but here no monthly download limits exist. 
  • ProQuest Statistical Insight
    • Authoritative data sources for use as evidence in your paper's argument; not all topics call for using statistics but enough do that this resource merits highlighting here.
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States
    • Consider this data source alongside the options presented by ProQuest Statistical Insight. 

CPL maintains several ebook collections. Consult the FAQ for guidance on using each of them. Watch especially for books published by university presses (for example, Oxford University Press or the University of Illinois Press) because these will have scholar authors and contain scholar-level information, no matter the subject area.

Print Research Resources through the Chicago Public Library

CPL has restored access to its print collections at the Harold Washington Library Center, its largest collection, and at many branch libraries. A few branches remain closed and shorter hours continue at others. All of this information, and a FAQ, appear at CPL's website

Search the print collections in CPL's catalog. Note that to see the print books in particular, apply a filter on the left side of search results.

Accessing Your Chicago Public Library In-Person and Online

You need a library card before you can use CPL's research databases, access its ebooks, or borrow print books. CPL makes getting a card easy by offering them through an online form. You can renew an expired card online, too. Report a missing card and request a new one by calling 312-747-4300.

Research Support from Your Chicago Public Library

CPL librarians offer online and phone support Monday through Friday between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM. They have greater familiarity with their collections and services than Loyola librarians do and so when your questions relate to CPL's digital or print resources, start by consulting them. Tell them about your project! They will eagerly jump in to help right where you are.

Distinguishing Between Information for Scholars and Information for All Readers

Your paper will emphasize use of information for scholars. Your research process will include information for scholars and for general audiences. You will find the distinctions between academic journals for scholars and popular magazines for general audiences reasonably straightforward but for other content types such as government information, distinguishing between the two requires a more nuanced approach. 

Consider this example: One government document on malaria exemplifies scholar-level information but another government document on the same topic does not--it provides helpful information in a compelling format for general audiences but the content lacks the depth and detail sought by a scholar.

To learn more, watch this video. (4:48; created by North Carolina State University Libraries under a Creative Commons License permitting use  by libraries and students everywhere.)

You'll Do Great

Susan, Jane, and all of Loyola's Research and Learning Librarians wish you success on this journey into academic research and writing. Get started right away, stick to it, and reach out for support from librarians, your teachers, and your fellow students. Good luck!

Research and Learning Librarian

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Jane Currie
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Research and Learning Librarian

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Susan Wardzala
Social Work / Criminal Justice Librarian
Loyola University Libraries
Lewis Library / 25 E Pearson #616
Chicago, IL 60611
Pronouns: she/her/hers
Subjects: Library Science