Library Workshop: Research 101
Unsure how to start a paper or research project? Think maybe you could stand to brush up on search strategies?
If this sounds familiar, Library Workshop: Research 101 has you covered. This interactive tutorial explores six stages of the research process. You can view it from start to finish, or focus on specific sections as needed:
Starting strategies, from choosing a topic to finding the right keywords.
When to Look for Books, When to Look for Articles
For many research papers, students need to find secondary sources, quite often scholarly books and articles.
Since you will use different tools to find books, articles and book chapters, it's helpful to think in advance about what you want to find.
Here are some criteria to think about:
- longer than articles and chapters
- take longer to write and publish, so are less current
- subject matter tends to be broader than articles or chapters
- you find them using a catalog, such as OskiCat or MELVYL
- briefer than books
- more current than books, though scholarly articles are less current than newspapers or popular articles
- subject matter is more focused than that of books
- you find them using an article database, such as JSTOR
- briefer, like an article
- take longer to write and publish, so may be less current than articles
- subject matter is more focused than that of books; similar to articles
- you find them using an article database covering the appropriate discipline
For more information, view the Library Workshop tutorial on the Knowledge Cycle.
If you have questions about the types of sources you should be using in your research, please ask for assistance in person or online.
The Research Process
Choose a topic. It's OK if it's vague, or too broad; you can get more specific later.
Do a brain dump: Note down what you already know about your topic, including:
- Names of people, organizations, companies, time period you are interested in, places of interest (countries, regions, cities, etc.)
Select the best search tools to find information on your topic. Look under the Finding Articles tab of this guide for article database suggestions, or click here to see all the article databases available for your subject. Or use a catalog like Oskicat or Melvyl to search for books and other resources.
Use nouns from your brain dump as search terms.
Evaluate what you find. Change search terms to get closer to what you really want.
Refine your topic - Using the information you have gathered, determine if your research topic should be narrower or broader. You may need to search basic resources again using your new, focused topics and keywords.
For more ideas, take a look this short tutorial on beginning your research!
Is it a scholarly source?
Your instructor may want you to use scholarly (or "peer-reviewed") sources. What does this mean?
There are two main types of scholarly sources:
- Articles published in scholarly journals (print or electronic), which are usually peer-reviewed.
- Books (print or electronic) intended for an expert or specialized audience.
Scholarly sources are:
- Specialized: written by scholars for an informed, academic audience, at a level that requires some background knowledge in the subject
- Build upon the work of other scholars, often including extensive bibliographies.
- Examples: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of African American History, and JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association)
Popular sources, on the other hand, are intended for the general public. These sources are more introductory, may not be written by experts in a field, and often do not cite any other sources. Examples of popular magazines include National Geographic, The Economist, Time, Newsweek, and People.
How can you tell if an article or book is scholarly? Look for:Read more