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Research Strategies: Initial Searching

Initial Searching

Initial Searching

Where are some good places to start, especially if you don't know anything (or very little) about your topic?

Reference works are good sources for background information, quick facts, overview of subject, and fine tuning your topic. The library subscribes to a number of eReference sources which include encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks. Consider searching both general reference works and subject specific reference works like:

  • General online databases
  • Textbooks and other introductory materials
  • General Encyclopedias, Dictionaries 
  • Subject Encyclopedias

You can use the Library's General Search to look for reference materials. Try searching using a word like dictionaryencyclopedia, or handbook, plus a word or two that describes your topic (i.e, searching Civil War Encylopedia).

Review the bibliographies included in reference sources and consider them as new sources. Keep track of any questions that come to mind as you do your initial readings.

If you're having trouble finding a good place to get started, a librarian can help you out!

How do I start searching?

You might find it useful to jot down a few words that describe your initial project, and then search using those words. Here's a helpful hint: Databases don't understand questions! (They're just not as smart as you are!) In most cases when you're using a  library database, the more words you use, the fewer sources you'll find. Instead of "What are the problems with student debt?" you'll need to search something like "student debt" to find articles about that topic.

Good Places to Start Searching

Need to find background information about your topic? Not sure where to start?

Find Articles

Find Reports on Issues & Topics

Get Started with Your Searching!

Reflect with Peers

"Talk it over. Tell your roommate or some other willing victim what you're working on. Sometimes just explaining the idea can help you clarfiy for yourself what direction seems most interesting." - The Reference Librarians at Gustavus Adoplphus College

Explain to your "willing victim:" This idea is interesting/important/disturbing because...

They'll probably have some new questions for you to consider!