5 Steps to Research

5 Steps to Research

Step 1: Select a topic and determine the purpose of your project (inform, persuade, etc...).

Topic selection can be the MOST important component of successful research. It might help to state your topic in the form of a question. 
Sample topic: Does playing music to plants help them grow? 

Step 2:  Find background information.

Use dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, websites, and other general works.  Specialized encyclopedias can be found in the reference section of the library.

In the course of your initial research, you can:

  • Select key words that will help you identify relevant information. You may need to select several synonyms for each key word to use in the various search engines you will use.
  • Write down additional resources from bibliographies
  • Broaden or narrow your topic to make it more manageable.

Step 3: Find books.

Use the Libraries' Scotty catalog to find books on your topic. A guide is available.

Step 4: Find articles.

Use periodical indexes and databases to find articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers that relate to your topic. For complex searches, it will be important to have identified good keywords and to use boolean operators to link them together.

Periodical articles:

  • contain current information on a subject,
  • help identify  "new" or "hot" topics of interest that may not be found in books,
  • are more specific than books
  • can be scholarly or popular

In each catalog or database:

  1. Choose appropriate keywords
  2. Enter the keywords, perhaps using boolean "and" and "or" to link them
  3. Execute the search and retrieve the results
  4. Examine the results to make sure they are relevant (If not, choose a new strategy)
  5. Print the results, so that you have a handy checklist of items you are looking for
  6. Check to see if the items are available in the library (Use UC eLinks if your search results are still available, otherwise use Scotty). You will find either a call number or a link for items we have.
  7. Find the items by following the online link or finding the call number on the library maps.  Rivera / Science
  8. As you find the items, online or in the library, cross them off of your list.
  9. If you need items we don't seem to have, order them from ILL.

Step 5: Get Assistance

Ask a Reference Librarian to help you find specialized sources and other materials that may be helpful. 
Last modified: 10/11/2006 10:23 AM by by M. Potter

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