Review: Basics of finding books, journal articles...

Changes to Library services during the COVID-19 service disruption.

There is no single prescribed way to do research: a good researcher will use a variety of sources and techniques and will understand that it is an iterative process. The following are just some of the steps you can take

  • Do some background reading, for example in encyclopedias, introductory texts. This is particularly useful if you are starting research in a topic you are not too familiar with. This can provide overviews, context, and specialized vocabulary
  • Talk to people: ask a classmate or a professor if they can recommend readings for a particular topic
  • Search: You can always use Omni, our single search box, but we also have subject-specific databases that may have sources not found through Omni.  Here are some examples:

Basic Search Techniques

The basis of just about any search is a keyword search, but there is a lot you can do to improve on a basic 1 or 2 word search

  • Use advanced search screens: often they will have extra search parameters you can use
  • Use truncation: most databases will let you use the * to pick up all forms of a particular word. Use it at the end of the root of a word. Example: technolog* will allow you to find not just "technology" but also technological, technologic, technologically....
  • Use synonyms: Before you do your search, try and think if there are any commonly used synonyms for your keyword that might be useful. (background reading can be helpful in pointing some of these out). Example: if I am interested in second language learning in universities I might try searching for: universit* OR higher education OR college* OR undergraduate*
  • Use correct terminology: most disciplines have very specific terminology that you may not be familiar with if you are just starting to research the subject areas. You can pick up on the vocabulary a number of ways: 
    • Do background reading (encyclopedias, introductory chapters in books, review articles..)
    • Listen: in lectures, when there are guest speakers
    • Browse abstracts of journal articles
    • Look at assigned subject terms/descriptors that many databases assign to articles
    • Use built-in thesauri that some databases have, e.g. LLBA, ERIC, Sociological Abstracts and browse for possible terms to use
  • Follow citation trails, in both directions:
    • Look for links in databases to sources that have cited the article/book/essay more recently. This can lead you to the most current research on a topic
    • Pay attention to the sources cited by books/articles you find: this can help you find foundational research in a given area
    • Look for links to "related articles": these are sources that either share a number of cited references with the item you are looking at, or could be ones that other people who have looked at the article you found also looked at. 
Content last reviewed: July 16, 2020