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Human Development & Family Studies: Research Methods

A LibGuide to support HDFS faculty and students

Research Methods Resources

Steps for effective research:

Determine the broad topic.

  • Write down the words you associate with that topic.  These will be Keywords.
  • You may discover that there are search terms (keywords or key phrases) that work better than this term in finding information
  • You have to do preliminary research to do effective research

Identify related topics associated with the topic by browsing a variety of sources (related topics will help to generate more keywords to use to narrow the search, that is, to make the search results more specific):

  • Internet.
  • Books
  • Electronic books
  • Library reference databases

Turn your topics into effective search terms.

  • Decide if your search term is a commonly used phrase, e.g., “human development”, or two separate ideas, e.g., “child” and “culture” 
  • Combine terms.  Why combine terms?
  • Combining terms is a step in Boolean algebra.  See the Boolean Machine for visual examples of Boolean searches.

Some databases supply the AND for you.  Read search suggestions or HELP before searching a database.
Or combine phrases, using the command AND, e.g., “food insecurity” AND “education.”

  • Combine terms to reduce the number of retrieved items.
  • Combine terms to make the search more relevant.

Identify credible sources, that is, reliable sources. 

  • Use the CRAAP Test to evaluate information and data you find, especially that from the Internet

Browse results of your search at each stage to determine if you have found relevant sources.  Retrieved items do not have to be perfect!  You can use relevant portions.
Be sure to write down which documents you have used, if you have not made a print out or obtained a copy.
If necessary, modify your search term(s) and try again.
Ask the librarian for help.

Evaluating resources

When using information, especially, but not only in academic writing, it is important to know if the source is credible, that is, is it  believable.

Using Research and Evidence

What type of evidence should I use?

There are two types of evidence.

  • First hand research is research you have conducted yourself such as interviews, experiments, surveys, or personal experience and anecdotes.
  • Second hand research is research you are getting from various texts that has been supplied and compiled by others such as books, periodicals, and Web sites.

Regardless of what type of sources you use, they must be credible. In other words, your sources must be reliable, accurate, and trustworthy.

How do I know if a source is credible?

Apply the C.R.A.A.P. test to the information you find:

Internet Sources

Be especially careful when evaluating Internet sources! Never use Web sites where an author cannot be determined, unless the site is associated with a reputable institution such as a respected university, a credible media outlet, government program or department, or well-known non-governmental organizations. Beware of using sites like Wikipedia, which are collaboratively developed by users. Because anyone can add or change content, the validity of information on such sites may not meet the standards for academic research.

--From The OWL

[Contributors: Stacy Weida, Karl Stolley]