Not sure what to write about? Have a general idea but want to dig deeper? In that case, use Wikipedia as a tool to jumpstart your thinking about a topic. For example:
You can also look at the "See Also" links at the bottom of most high-quality Wikipedia articles to find topics related to your interests.
When searching academic databases, like JSTOR or Gale, students often have difficulty coming up with the right search terms-- or keywords-- to use. After all, if you are new to a subject, how can you know the right terminology needed to find scholarly research on the topic?
In that case, Wikipedia can help:
Write down any common terms, names, organizations, or ideas you come across that are specificly related to your topic and use those keywords to search academic databases for more appropriate resources to use in your research.
Remember, Wikipedia is usually not an acceptable source for college-level assigments, however it may be appropriate in some cases. When in doubt, ask your professor.
Plagiarism. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 10, 2004, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism
Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2004, July 22). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved August 10, 2004, from http://www.wikipedia.org
Wikipedia contributors, "Plagiarism," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plagiarism&oldid=5139350 (accessed August 10, 2004).
You can find more information on the Citing Wikipedia page or click on "Cite this Page" under the Tools sections in the left sidebar of every Wikipedia article!
Remember, Wikipedia is not considered an appropriate source for college-level assignments. In fact, you should avoid citing any encyclopedias (also called "tertiary sources") in your research. Instead, look at the References and Bibliography sections and consider using those sources instead.
Be aware: just because something is cited in a Wikipedia article does not mean it is "scholarly" or appropriate for your assignment. When in doubt, ask a librarian or your professor.
Well-formed Wikipedia articles have a list of useful and often scholarly sources listed at the end of each page under "References", "Bibliography", or "Further Reading." In many cases, there is a hyperlink to the actual item. In some cases, however, you may need to search for the item yourself.
For anything else, a simple Google search may work. If you have trouble finding it, ask a librarian. We're experts at that sort of thing. =)