SBC Library Research Tips and Techniques
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.