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Global Studies: Dissertation Literature Reviews

Deciding on a Topic

Deciding on a topic is possibly the most difficult part of doing research. If you're not sure of how to start, talk with your professor, ask a Reference Librarian, or search the online database pages on a subject related to your topic.

  1. Think about a topic that interests you and that will hold your attention as you research and write your paper.
  2. Do some quick background reading from a textbook, an article that reviews the literature written on that topic, an article your professor might recommend, or browse a general database for articles or ebooks. These tools can help you get a general understanding of the different aspects of the topic. You will also be introduced to the terms used by the professionals who write in that field.
  3. Try to narrow your topic to something manageable. You may need to rework your ideas about your topic as you do the research based on what you find or don't find. Talk with you professor if you run into problems.
  4. Once you have a topic, write it out as a short sentence or a question. 
  5. Identify the different concepts and develop a list of the keywords and synonyms.
    • Memory, Recall, Forgetfulness, Recollection
    • Stress, Anxiety, Pressure
  1. The next step is to choose the databases to search for the books and journals you'll need.

Choosing the Right Databases

After deciding on a topic and identifying the keywords, the next step is to choose a database. With over 70 different databases, this can be confusing. 
If you are unsure of where to start, ask a reference librarian for suggestions, 

... OR ...

  1. Think about your topic in terms of what broad subject area(s) that it might fall under. (Psychology, History, etc.) Use the Databases by Subject page to see which indexes are available. Remember, you may need to search more than one index to find what you want or to get enough information.
  2. All our databases have links (360 Link) to the specific journals we can make available to you. But don't miss out on good information just because an article is not full-text. Check out for Articles Not Available at UMass Lowell.