Have you just been assigned a research paper and not know where to start? Or maybe it's been a while since you've been in the library doing research? Here are a few pointers on how to approach library research for papers and projects that will help you to get the grade that you want.
If you haven't been assigned a topic or don't already have one in mind, you will need to choose one. Some good places to look for ideas are:
• Course syllabus and textbooks
• Reference books in the subject area: encyclopedias, atlases, etc.
• Ask your librarian for assistance
Once you've selected a topic, you'll want to see what kinds of books are available at the library. Check the ACC Library Catalog as part of your strategy.
Even if you've found several good books on your topic, you may want to supplement them with more recent information from magazines, newspapers and journals. Your first step is to consult our Librarians in order to find database articles on your topic. The ACC Library provides access to many different databases through the TexShare Databases. In these databases, you can enter search terms and retrieve a list of references to articles concerning that topic. Often times you will be able to pull up the entire text of the article.
As you find information, you should be evaluating its quality by applying the critical thinking techniques we have on this page. Is the author an authority? Is the publisher of the book or magazine reputable? Do the authors cite what resources they used to prepare the information? Is the material out-of-date? Is it factual or opinion?
As you get further into your research, you may discover that there's either too much or not enough information about your topic. If there's too much, try limiting your search results through changes time frame, sources or other criteria. Browsing through books on the subject or scanning article titles from an index to focus in on one aspect of the broader topic can also be quite useful. If you have too little information, try expanding the results by opening the timeframe, changing the resources and using different keyword. Using synonyms for your original search terms can also have a positive impact on the search results. Generalizing the topic will result in finding more information. Limiting your topic will result in less information.
Internet search engines can also be quite useful for getting a good idea of what is out there. The Internet provides a wealth of data, including fact sheets, statistics, and full-text electronic journals on a wide variety of topics. Of course, you need to evaluate the quality of information found just as you would when using books and periodical articles.