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ATM/TH 452 - History of Fashion

Choose a Topic

The topics available for you to select to research are often dictated by various factors, such as assignments, classes, professors, or research agendas. However, even within these constraints, it is important to find a topic that will grab your interest.

If you have an open-ended assignment, browsing CQ Researcher can help you decide on a topic by giving you a jumping off point.

Preliminary Research

The first part of choosing a topic requires you to do some background research.  Sometimes researchers select a topic, and then try to research it, often much later.

This can lead to a few problems:

  • The topic is too broad, or too narrow.
  • The researcher doesn’t know the specific vocabulary used to describe the topic.
  • Not enough has been written on the topic to complete an assignment.

As a result, finding information can to be frustrating, and may yield results that are less than ideal.

The simple step of researching a topic as it is selected can often make the entire process much easier. This can be done if you follow these steps.

  1. Make certain to select a topic that interests you.
  2. Read some background information on your topic.
  3. For example, some terms for history of fashion could be: fashion, ancient, medieval, contemporary.
  4. Use Boolean to create a better search: fashion AND ancient, or religion AND fashion AND history for example.

And then....

  1. Create a research question.
  2. Do a test search on your topic, to see what is out there.
  3. Broaden or narrow your topic as necessary.

When you are doing background research on your topic you want to consult reference sources.  These can be encyclopedias found in the library or online; and yes, in this preliminary phase of research you can use Wikipedia.  Never cite Wikipedia in an academic paper, but if you are deciding if a topic interests you, go for it.  Just remember that Wikipedia is not consistent and while one entry might be accurate another one may not be.

Create a Research Question

Now that you’ve done your background research, your topic should be shaping itself more clearly to you. It can help at this point to create a concept or mind map that demonstrates the interconnected aspects of the topic and how they relate to each other.

It’s now that you need to take the aspects of the topic that are of most interest to you, and form them into a question that your research assignment will answer. This question will guide your research forward, helping you to stay focused and relevant.

Example questions might be:

  • How has fashion shaped communities in the United States?
  • How has the fashion changed in China over the past 200 years?

Finding Related Words & Phrases

Thinking about Your Question

Look at this well-formed question to get an idea of how the process:

“Does prolonged exposure to violent video games lead to aggressive behavior in teenagers?”

Now, what should we do with it?

For now you can use it to create search queries for the various databases and resources you will be using during your research. It may be tempting just to type this question into a search box, but that won't yield the best results. You need to focus on the concepts at the heart of your question, and assess whether the results you receive contribute to answering the question you've designed.

Working backward from the question, our key terms are:

  • violent video games
  • aggressive behavior
  • & teenagers

We will definitely want to identify articles that contain all of these keywords, and a search query like "video games" AND "aggressive behavior" AND "teenagers" will definitely get us some of those. However, we will want to once again think of related terms and concepts to substitute into our queries to make sure that we're locating related articles that may use different terms for the same concepts. Some of the terms from the concept map we created earlier will likely be helpful here.

  • Video Games
    • Massively Multi-player Online Game
    • First-person shooter
    • console game
    • computer game
    • arcade game
  • Aggressive Behavior
    • Violence
    • Domestic violence
    • Bullying
    • Abusive
    • Cruel
  • Teenagers
    • High school students
    • College students
    • Young adults
    • Teens
    • Juvenile
    • Adolescent

Now we are ready to construct numerous search queries that will yield us results in a variety of databases and publications. As we search articles and read abstracts, it is likely that we'll identify additional synonyms and related concepts to add to this list. It's best to keep an active list of terms like this in case you're having little luck with searching— each database is a little different, and subtle changes to the language you use can often bring you very different results.

As you learn more about your topic through searching and reading articles, you may find that you can refine or adjust your research question even further.

Search Terms for History of Fashion

The most commonly used terms are:

Clothing and dress
Costume Design
Fashion Designers

Note: since Costume is an older term in use, more entries for historical titles will appear under this heading than for Clothing and dress. A comprehensive search should make use of both main headings. 

These headings can be subdivided by time period (century) and geographical location.

Clothing and Dress—United States
Costume—Great Britain

Narrower terms exist, including the following selected headings:

Belts (Clothing)
Children’s clothing
Clothing and dress measurements
Color in clothing
Dress Accessories
Fur garments
Men’s clothing
Nationalism and clothing
Riding habit
Sports clothes
Suits (Clothing)
Vintage clothing
Women’s clothing
Work clothes

Searching by subject will usually generate the most accurate and beneficial results. However, if you are not certain of the correct subject heading to use, you may have better luck with a keyword search on OneSearch, particularly if you are looking for a specific dress mode or historical term. For individual artists or designers, you should search by both author and subject.

OneSearch will bring you thousands of results available at CWU including Articles, images, ebooks and print books. You can refine the results by selecting the Resource Type facets on the results page.