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History of Art and Design

Choosing a Research Topic

Starting Research: Get the Big Picture

Once you have a basic idea of what your topic is, you'll need to get an idea of the big picture. What are the major issues involved in your topic? What are the terms associated with it?

Reference sources are a great way to begin your search. They'll show you which sources experts recommend and give you ideas for specific areas of the topic you may want to research. These are often broad and general, so it's best to start here and narrow your topic down as you progress.

Keyword Brainstorming

Introduction to Library Research

Evaluating Resources


The TRAAP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.


  • When was the information published?
  • Does the age of the information affect the accuracy?
  • Is there a more recent version that supports or refutes the original?
  • Are the links functional?


  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is it pitched at a scholarly audience?
  • Have you looked at a variety of similar sources before selecting this one?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source?


  • Where did the information come from?
  • Is the author / publisher / sponsor identified?
  • Can their credentials be verified?
  • Has the source been cited in other research?
  • Do you trust the source?


  • Can the information be verified other in other reliable sourced?
  • Does the research contain sufficient evidence to back it up?
  • Has it been through a peer-review process?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?


  • Why was this information created?
  • Does it seek to inform, provide facts, to sell, or to persuade you of something?
  • Is there evidence of political, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
  • Is the information objective and impartial?

Get Research Help

Librarians at Pratt want to help you with your research.  Here's how to contact us: 

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