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Research Tips


Identify & Develop Your Topic

  • Identify main concepts or keywords
  • Ask the questions:
    • Who?
    • Where? Geographic Location?
    • When? Historical Aspects?
    • Why?

Searching Multiple Topics

Research often spans multiple topics and disciplines. For example when conducting research on a novel you might approach your research this way :

  1. Search for information on the novel
  2. Search for information on the alternative topic
  3. Search for information on the alternative topic & the novel
    boolean logic

Refining Your Topic

  • Based on your initial exploration, how might you broaden or narrow your topic?
  • Try alternative search terms
  • Use the built-in tools provided!
    • Ask your professor or librarian
    • Using tools within the tools, like subject terms, search history, dates, and thesauri in databases to limit or expand your results

    database tools

Evaluate Relevancy of Materials

  • Initial Appraisal
    • First appraise a source by examining the description of the source.
    1. Author–Who is the author? What are their credentials? Is this their area of expertise?
    2. Date of Publication–Is the information up-to-date?
    3. Edition or Revision–Is this a first edition? Further editions indicate a source has been revised. Many printings can mean it’s become a standard source.
    4. Publisher–Who is the press publishing the work? A University Press is more likely to be scholarly.
    5. Title of Journal–Is it scholarly or popular? This is important because it indicates the level of complexity of the information.
      • Content Analysis
        • After initial appraisal examine the actual source. For books, scan the table of contents and the index. For journals, look at the designated subjects.
          1. Intended Audience–Is it too elementary or too technical?
          2. Objectivity–-Does it seem well researched? Notes or citations? Biased?
          3. Coverage–What is the scope? Is it updating other sources, substantiating other materials you’ve read, or adding new information? Does it extensively cover the topic or only marginally?
          4. Writing Style–Is it logically organized? Are the main points clearly presented?

      Remember to:

      • Take notes
      • Remember to cite where you found the information
      • Write down what terms you used when a search was successful

      Think about the different kinds of questions you need to answer.