Research 101: Getting Started On Your Research Project

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This lesson is intended to get you started with college-level research.

Please contact the library if you need further help getting started with your research or if need assistance continuing with the research process. We are here to help. 

Start your Research

Step 3: Beginning College-Level Research

Once you understand your assignment (Step 1) and have a general idea of a topic (Step 2), the best place to begin your research is in background sources like subject-specific encyclopedia or other introductory sources. Some suggestions of library databases to use to find introductory sources can be found below.

Start with Keywords

In both databases begin searching with general keywords and phrases.

For example, if your topic is Climate Change you can simply put that keyword phrase in as your initial search, or search for a specific aspect of your topic.

  • For example, Ocean Acidification.

Only include the most important concepts in your keyword search.

  • For example, DO NOT include extra words or terms such as PROS AND CONS or complete sentences or questions. Doing so might result in zero results.  

Once you find a background article on your topic read it and take notes about the terms and ideas the article presents.

Academic writing often uses specific language and these terms will then be the keywords you will use as you continue your research.

Use open-ended questions to help you organize these terms and keywords.

  • For example: 
  • WHO are the people and groups associated with this topic? 
  • WHAT are the main issues? 
  • HOW is society impacted? 

Databases to Start your Research