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Research Services: Research Process

Where should we start?

This Information Sources diagram can help guide you.    Black arrow to the right

I.  REFERENCE WORKS: General Encyclopedias and Dictionaries           

First, start with background information, such as a general encyclopedia, dictionary, almanac, etc. 

This will help you to understand your broad topic and put it in the context of history, the political situation, the people involved, and other related topics.  You can save yourself a lot of time if you start with a good, solid understanding of your topic!  From these sources you will learn spelling variations, other keywords to use, more specific topics to explore, and more.
Here are a couple of examples: 

II.  SPECIALIZED REFERENCE SOURCES: Subject Encyclopedias            

Then, seek out more specialized reference sources like a subject encyclopedia or handbook in our library catalog.
Here are a few examples: 

  • Encyclopedia of applied and computational mathematics 
  • Sage encyclopedia of African cultural heritage in North America
  • Encyclopedia of language development
  • Clothing and fashion: American fashion from head to toe

III.  BOOKS                                                                                                      

Search the Library catalog for books that are on your topic. You can use the dropdown menu to search by subject, keyword, author, title, etc. Use this "Find Books" guide for help using the library catalog to locate books and this "Sudoc" guide for help locating government documents.

IV.  ARTICLES                                                                                                

Plan your search strategy and perform your search in one of our databases or OneSearch:

  • Describe your search as a question or sentence
  • Pinpoint major concepts included in the search question or sentence
  • Use synonyms, alternative ideas to relate to major concepts: use a dictionary if needed
  • Mix and match these keywords to conduct multiple searches
  • Continue to refine your search strategy as you discover relevant terms

You can use our Subject Guides to select a database related to your topic. Use our Journals by Title to look up access to our journal subscriptions.

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