Building Others Through Christian Principles

SBC Library Research Tips and Techniques

SBC Library Research Tips and 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.
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