Figuring out what kind of information you need is often the first step in deciding where to search.
1. Read your assignment carefully and see what resources your professor requires (e.g., three scholarly journals) and excludes (e.g., Wikipedia). If you are unclear, ask before you start the research process.
2. Consult background information to gain a greater understanding of your topic and pinpoint additional keywords for searching.
3. Identify the most relevant types of resources for your task - journals, newspapers, magazines, websites, books, encyclopedias, government reports, etc
4. Use the library's Research Guides to find relevant resources and which databases to search in different subject areas.
Knowing the difference between a database and a search engine is an important search basic. This clip explains the differences and when to use each tool.
Wikipedia can be a great place to start your research when you know nothing about a topic. Particularly because it can show you some of the important keywords and issues associated with what you want to write about.
So while's it's OK to use Wikipedia for background information, it is almost never acceptable to use it as a source in an academic paper.
Think back to the keywords and terms you used on the Define tab. Keywords are words that can appear anywhere in an article including the title or the article text. You'll use keywords to search all of the library databases.
Here are some tips for searching:
EXAMPLE: This is not a good search for EBSCOhost because it poses a question rather than using keywords.
This is a much better search that focuses on keywords and makes use of Boolean Operators.
Remember that most databases, like EBSCOhost, use a tool called Boolean Operators to search. The Boolean Operators are used to connect words together and tell the database to return results that contain some or all of those words. Here’s how the operators work:
Why do Boolean Operators matter? Well, many databases assume that if you enter a bunch of words in a row, then you want articles that contain all of those words together. So the search ninteeen nineties computers communication would return only articles that have those four exact words right next to one another – probably not very many articles. This is called phrase searching.
One other tip about Boolean Operators? You MUST capitalize them – every letter. Or they won’t work!
Library databases frequently rely on Boolean Operators to connect search terms and find the best articles. This video shows you what Boolean Operators are. From Lexy Spry & Emily Wixson, Chemistry Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Step 5: Gather Sources
Sources to use for an overview of topic:
Sources to use for specialized information:
Keep track of sources used for citing documentation:
With your research completed, you are ready to start writing your paper! Consider browsing the Online Writing Center from Purdue University, a well-regarded source for writing and researching information.