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Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons

Library Research Basics

Professor Gubbins Fall 2023

Analyze Your Research Needs

  • Ask yourself these essential questions:
    • What do you know about the information requirements of your assignment? How many sources will you need to find?
      • I am writing a 2-3 page paper. (Look for 2-3 sources)
      • I am writing a 6-8 page paper. (Look for 8-10 sources)
      • I am writing a 15-20 page research paper. (Look for 15+ sources)
      • I am writing an Honors Thesis. (Look for 30+ sources)
    • What do you need to find about your topic? This shapes which articles and books you select to read.
      • I just need a brief overview. 
      • I need to find recent criticisms of a literary work.
      • I need to find out what people do in a career I am thinking about.
      • I need to research common writing problems.
      • I need to find out about current political and news events.
    • What types of information sources does your professor expect you to find? Does your assignment ask for specific types of sources?
      • A book related to my topic
        • A popular or a scholarly book?
      • An article related to my topic
        • A news article?
        • An article from a general interest magazine like Time or Newsweek?
        • An article from a "scholarly, peer-reviewed journal"?
        • An article published within the past 1-2 years
        • An article published within the past 5 years
        • An article published anytime - could be over 20 years old
      • A web site about my topic?
        • A web site created by a subject expert?
        • A web site from a professional association?

Construct a Search Strategy

  • Ask yourself these essential questions:
    • What is your topic/subject?
      • How would you describe what you are looking for about your topic?
      • For example, suppose your topic is "Black Lives Matter"
        • What do you want to say about Black Lives Matter in your paper?
          • What Black Lives Matter is
            • an activist movement
            • a philosophy
            • a sequence of historical events
          • Goals of Black Lives Matter
          • Strategies of Black Lives Matter
          • Who is involved with Black Lives Matter
          • Comparing the  Black Lives Matter movement with Civil Rights movements in the 1960s

Layout Key Words, Phrases, Similar Terms and Concepts

For example:

Brainstorm to Get Ideas

Global Warming Brainstorm