In this course we have focused on the world of information, how it’s organized, and how you can find and evaluate relevant resources on the web and in research libraries. You’ve compared different types of search tools, such as web search engines, library discovery tools, and article indexes, and you should now know the different types of information you’ll retrieve when you use these various tools.
Starting your Research
When you’re beginning a project, look for background information to acquaint yourself with the major ideas surrounding your topic. You can do this by researching your topic in encyclopedias, books, and other reputable sources. Carefully evaluate the websites and other resources you use to learn more about your topic, though! Make sure that your information is backed up by other sources, and is authoritative, current, and relevant to your research.
Once you have the basic knowledge you need to understand your topic, you can begin searching for articles and other sources that help support your project. Using Quick Search is a good first step for finding articles, books, and other sources.
Doing In-depth Research
As you progress in your research projects, you will have to go beyond basic background information and do more in-depth research. You’ll use peer-reviewed articles and other publications that you can find in subject-specific indexes.
When searching in an index, you should always start small with basic keyword searches. If you get too many or too few results, try modifying your search by using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), nesting your terms within parentheses, or filtering your results to a specific date range. There’s never a perfect search that will meet all of your research needs on the first try, so try combining a few different techniques!
Writing up results and sharing your work
Once you’ve identified a few great sources and you want to finish putting your project together, you’ll need to carefully read through your sources, paraphrase what you’ve found, and synthesize the ideas into your own argument. By building on the resources you find, citing them properly, and adding your argument to theirs, you can contribute your thoughts to the scholarly conversation.
Finally, if you want to share the work you’ve done, you have copyright control over your work and can publish, present it at conferences, or choose to license and share it for free online. Just be careful where you share it and remember: once your information is on the internet, it’s a lot harder to take down than it was to put up!
Remember, we have covered just the basics in this class. As you progress through your studies, you will want to learn more about finding, evaluating, and using information, and use more subject‐specific finding tools. Keep in mind that the information world is constantly changing. As you continue your college career, remember these aspects of the research process and don’t be afraid to talk to a librarian for more advanced research support.