The research process is part of the composition process. Don't be afraid to let your personal taste and inclinations guide the direction of your research. What are you interested in or passionate about? How can you find out more about those things? Many successful scholars research topics and documents which nobody had ever thought to explore, and tie them together with the strings of their own personal obsessions and thematic fixations.
It's also important, however, to Critically Analyze Information Sources (Cornell). Doing scholarly research (this is a paper for school, after all) requires different skills than those you've developed from years of online searching. Google and other search engines reward certain approaches that create false expectations and poor research results when you try to transfer those skills to library databases. Here are a few tips:
- Consider what kinds of sources you need. If you know you need peer-reviewed journal articles, where can you find those? In the same way that you wouldn't want to search in the MLA International Bibliography for local movie times, you probably don't want to search in Google for scholarly articles on literature.
- Slow down. There are often really great search features available at your fingertips, and you just have to resist the temptation to hit the Search button for 20 seconds to scan the search interface:
- Is there an advanced search page?
- Can you limit to peer-reviewed articles?
- Can you limit by the year published?
- Can you use any subject terms to get more relevant results?
- Iterative searching
- Learn from the search results
- Too many results? Too few?
- Look at citations from good sources
Cite your sources
- MLA handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th edition, in print.
- Many older editions are also available throughout the UCB libraries.
- Chicago Manual of Style (online).
- Also available in print in many different libraries.
- Citing Your Sources. A brief online guide to the main citation styles and a brief discussion on what constitutes plagiarism.