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This research guide will help to meet the following objectives:
- Learn how to construct an effective search for information.
- Learn which library databases contain information on specific subjects.
- Learn how to search for credible sources.
- Learn how to search for peer-reviewed sources.
- Learn how to evaluate sources.
- Learn how to cite sources.
Basic Research Strategy
Procedure for effective searching:
- Determine the broad topic.
- Write down the words you associate with that topic. These will be Keywords.
- 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) by using some of the following sources:
- Electronic books.
- Library databases.
- Turn your topics into effective search terms.
- Decide if your search term is a commonly used phrase, e.g., “global warming,” or two separate ideas, e.g., “internet” and “history.”
- 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., “global warming” AND “fossil fuels.”
- Combine terms to reduce the number of retrieved items.
- Combine terms to make the search more relevant.
- Keep track of which terms you have used and whether they were successful.
- Write the search terms down.
- Identify credible sources, that is, reliable sources.
- See our links on evaluating the credibility of web sites for more information.
- Library databases are purchased because they provide a greater likelihood of finding credible sources than an open search on the World Wide Web.
- 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.
Additional Research and Writing Assistance
For additional assistance in researching a topic and writing up the results of your research, refer to these Research Guides: