RESEARCH TIPS & TECHNIQUES
Use the following strategies to find library and/or Internet resources quickly and efficiently. In addition, please contact the Librarian by phone, email, or in person for assistance.
Step 1: Clearly define your research topic.
What do you need to know?
How much information do you need to gather (what are the instructor’s requirements)?
To better understand your topic before beginning your research, use general resources like encyclopedias; they can be a useful tool in creating your draft outline.
Step 2: Start Your Search. Possible sources include:
Books in our library’s catalog or in the catalogs of our cooperative libraries.
Articles from journals, magazines, and newspapers through available databases on our website and through the Internet.
Websites, documents, data, images, and other media available on the Internet.
Step 3: Carefully select your search terms for search boxes.
Keywords – the most specific words to describe your topic including synonyms and alternate terms, such as abbreviations and scientific terms.
Controlled vocabulary – specific Dewey Decimal Classification or Library of Congress subject categories.
Truncation symbols – expands results by instructing the computer to look for the root of the word and all alternate word endings (example: flood* searches for flood, floods, flooded, flooding). Common truncation symbols you can use are *, ?, #.
Boolean operators – conjunctions that produce more relevant search results by combining search terms. The principle Boolean operators are: AND, OR, NOT.
AND – combines different concepts together
(example: global warming AND extreme weather)
OR – gathers references that contain similar terms or synonyms
(example: extreme weather OR flood OR tornado OR drought)
NOT – excludes terms
(example: extreme weather NOT drought)
Step 4: Carefully and accurately record your found data.
Take careful notes, or print full references for bibliographies.
Carefully organize your bookmarks within meaningful headings.
Make sure to collect citations for all sources (print & electronic).
Step 5: Critically evaluate the information you find.
Make sure the resource is useful, well written, up to date, and/or at an appropriate level for your needs.
Remember the Internet is a self-publishing medium and contains a huge range of data, much of it scholarly, but much of it also useless and incorrect.
Step 6: Get help whenever you need it!
Ask for help from your instructor; he/she is there to help you learn.
Use “Help” screens and other online help when available.
Contact the Librarian for help or for search suggestions.