Seven Steps to Effective Library Research

The following steps provide an effective strategy for conducting efficient and accurate library research. Please read through the seven steps and take note of the research "tips" at the bottom of the page.


1. SELECT AND IDENTIFY YOUR TOPIC

After you have selected a topic, identify the keywords or terms which describe your topic. A helpful way to do this is to state your topic in the form of a question.

Example Topic in Psychology: Explore the relationship between altruism and genetically inherited behaviors.

Example Question: Is altruism a genetically inherited trait?

Example Keywords: Altruism, Heredity, Genetics

2. FIND BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Once you have identified the key terms or subjects for your topic, look for them in a general encyclopedia, textbook, subject encyclopedia, or subject glossary. Look for definitions and background information. Are your terms accurate? Remember to check all sources for bibliographies and additional references.

Example: Altruism is defined in the Encyclopedia of Psychology as a subset of Prosocial Behaviors. Related terms include charitable behavior, assistance, and sharing.

Example Keywords (Refined): Altruism, Charitable Behavior, Genetics, Behavioral Genetics, Assistance, Sharing

3. USE CATALOGS TO FIND BOOKS

Consult the online catalog and conduct a subject search for your topic. If no subject entry exists, try a subject keyword search. If no clear subject heading exists for your topic, try a keyword title search. Once you find appropriate materials, note their location, circulation status, and assigned subject headings.

Example: A subject search for altruism on the online catalog reveals that the library owns 28 items under the main subject heading of Altruism. Further subject breakdowns reveal that the library owns a number of related materials under the sub-headings of Charity, Conduct of Life, Helping Behavior, and Altruism - Case Studies.

4. USE ELECTRONIC INDEXES TO FIND PERIODICAL ARTICLES

Consult periodical indexes to find article citations on your topic. Some electronic citations will include the full-text of the article. Remember, many indexes are accessible both in the library, and through the campus network.

Example: A search of the PsychINFO Plus Text database reveals 62 journal articles relating to altruism and genetics.

5. FIND INTERNET RESOURCES

Consult "Search the World Wide Web"at the bottom of the STL Web Page for tips on how and where to search the Internet for your topic.

Example: A search for the terms "altruism and genetics"on the search engine Google reveals 6,590 web sites relating to the topic.

6. EVALUATE WHAT YOU FIND

Evaluate the authority and quality of the materials you have located. Consider the author, publisher, and date of each resource. Is the material biased? Is it comprehensive? Who is the intended audience? Is the material of scholarly value?

Example: A research study sponsored and funded by the Behavior Genetics Association is more reliable than an independent experiment conducted by a graduate student in behavioral psychology.

7. CITE WHAT YOU FIND USING A STANDARD FORMAT

Select a style manual and be sure to correctly format your citations for both print and electronic resources.

Example: Use the APA (American Psychological Association) format to cite your resources and compile an informative bibliography.

Style Guides and Examples


Research "tips"

  • BEGIN YOUR RESEARCH AT THE START OF THE SEMESTER

  • WORK FROM THE GENERAL TO THE SPECIFIC

  • TRANSLATE YOUR TOPIC INTO THE SUBJECT LANGUAGE OF THE INDEXES AND CATALOGS YOU UTILIZE

  • ALWAYS CONSULT BIBLIOGRAPHIES AND ARTICLE REFERENCES

  • THE LIBRARY HAS GUIDES TO HELP YOU SEARCH THE ONLINE CATALOG, VARIOUS PERIODICAL INDEXES, AND THE INTERNET

  • RECORD WHAT YOU FIND, AND WHERE YOU FIND IT

  • KNOW WHEN TO CUT YOUR LOSSES AND CHOOSE ANOTHER TOPIC


* Remember To Ask A Librarian For Assistance *

Sojourner Truth Library Information Desk
257-3710