Many assignments will require you to find references or sources to help support and make your work more credible. This is part of the research process - finding out information from places besides your own knowledge.
Spend your time gathering resources and information on your topic from a variety of sources, and remember to use the many resources available at the library. Once you have gathered a wide range of sources it can help you think about your ideas on the topic.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what a good credible reference is and what is not.
This is an essential part of an effective research strategy. Create a record of your strategy and your searches. This will prevent you from repeating the same searches and finding the same resources. You may also want to track and organise your citations and links.
This will supply you with a broader context as well as important terminology in your topic. Excellent sources are those that are subject-specific such as the ones mentioned above. Always look at more than one source and compare for accuracy and bias.
Figure out what information you need. A technique for doing this is turning your topic into a list of questions that need to be answered. This will help you identify the information you may need.
You now need to determine what keywords you will be entering in your search engine. One way to do this is to extract keywords from the questions and phrases you produced in the previous steps. Then think of alternative words and phrases as everyone writes and talks in different ways.
Identify the scope of your topic and put limitations on your searches. Examples of limitations could be the language, publication date and type. Every database has its own search engine and rules so you may need to do an ‘advanced’ search.
You are now ready to start conducting your searches. MIT has an extensive database that you can use full of different places to search for your research. Here are some other places that you can search through that are free:
You can evaluate your sources to find the most reliable and suitable one for your topic. Apply journalism’s Five W’s (and H).
Who: Who is the author and what are their credentials in the topic?
What: Is the material primary or secondary?
Where: Is the publisher or organisation behind the source considered reputable?
When: Is the source current or does it cover the right time period for your topic?
Why: Is the opinion or bias of the author apparent and can it be taken into account?
How: Is the source written at the right level for your needs?
Now is the time to analyse and adjust your research strategy. Did you find the information needed? If not, now is time to analyse why that happened. Try looking for additional background information that might supply you with extra terminology or keywords to use in searches. It may also be possible that the information you need is not available and you may have to consult an expert in the topic or a librarian.