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Marriage and Family Research Guide: Explore Topics

This research guide contains resources for information about traditional, cultural, and alternative marriage and family topics.

Background Information

Reference books cannot be checked out, but you may photocopy or scan from them in the library if they are not freely available online (see links below).

Research prep

Step 1 - Read your assignment and choose a topic

As soon as you receive an assignment, read through it to make sure you understand what your instructor wants. The assignment may be very specific, giving you only a few choices, or very open, allowing you to pick based on your own interests.

Ask any questions you have about the assignment. A quick email or a word after class could save you having to start all over again!

After choosing a topic, double check your idea with your instructor to make sure it meets his or her expectations. Your instructor might also be able to make some suggestions if you are truly stuck. Or, if you have several ideas that seem equally good, your instructor could help you choose the one that's the best fit for the class.

Step 2 - Get some background information

It's OK if you have no previous information about Marriage & Family research! You are graded on what you learn from the assignment, not what you knew when you started.

If the subject is really new to you, take a look at some of the library's resources in the Background Information Box to the left. If a topic seems too large,try to narrow it down. Page through your textbook or recommended readings. Was there one aspect of your studies that you wanted to learn more about?

By browsing the resources in the box to the left, you might find topics you have never heard anything about.

Step 3 - Consider your own interests

No one says that research has to be boring! In fact, it should be a chance for you to steer your own learning, based on your personal interests.

If you are taking a class in an area outside your major or main program of study, can you tie your topic back to your major? For example:

   Early childhood education and later success

   The impact of human services workers on families

Can you tie your own personal interests into the topic? For example:

   Wedding styling for multicultural couples

   Storytelling and family folklore

Choose something that will keep you interested. It will help you write a better paper or make a better presentation.

Step 4 - Get ready to research!

Once you've chosen your topic, doing a little extra work at the beginning will make your research and final project or paper go more smoothly.

Make your topic into a question. This helps you stay on track. Every time you find a source, ask "Does this help answer my question?"

This also helps you create a strong thesis or main idea, because it should be a direct answer to your question. For example:

   Take "Storytelling and family folklore," a great idea for a topic, and make it "How is family folklore passed on through storytelling among Irish immigrants in the United States?" 

Brainstorm related words.

Not everyone uses the same word for an idea or object. Think of other words that people may use to describe your topic.

   Folklore; oral history; tradition; mythology; lore

   Courtship; dating; bundling; betrothal

It may be helpful to check a dictionary or read a basic overview in order to see what words are used to describe your topics, especially by the experts.