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Library Research: An Introduction

An introduction to the research process and the library's resources.

Introduction & Learning Objectives

When conducting research for a project or paper, it is important to first develop a search strategy that incorporates searching techniques. The following videos and tutorials will help you construct a search strategy, and will introduce you to important searching techniques that will help you with your research.

After reviewing the material in this section, students will be able to

  • Identify keywords, synonyms, and related terms to use as search terms
  • Determine when to use Boolean operators and quotations to search for sources

Developing a Search Strategy

1. Choose a topic.

Unless your instructor has given you guidelines or topics to choose from, this can often be the most difficult part of the research process.

Example topic: global warming

If you are having a hard time finding a topic, consider looking in one of the library's reference sources. The sources below are good places to get ideas on topics as well as background information.

CQ Researcher provides in-depth analysis on current issues, including pro/con arguments, a chronology of events, and a guide for further research. CQ Researcher can be found on the Library's Find Articles page under "Starting Points." 

Opposing Viewpoints in Context provides an overview and multiple sides of a current issue. To access Opposing Viewpoints, go to the Library's Find Articles page under "Starting Points." 

2. Turn your topic into a research question.

It is always a good idea to restate your topic as a focused research question. This will help you to clarify your topic. You will have an easier time finding resources by answering your focused research question. When students don't use a question, they tend to state facts about a topic.

To help formulate your research question, ask yourself:

    * What do you already know about the topic?
    * What you do you want to know about the topic

Example focused research question: Is human activity to blame for global warming?

3. Choose keywords

Keywords are usually the main ideas or concepts in your research question. These keywords will serve as possible search terms for your research. 

Example keywords: human activity, global warming

4. Find synonyms for your keywords.

Now that you have taken your keywords from your focused research question, you need to find synonyms or related words for each keyword. These synonyms or related words can serve as possible search terms in addition to your keywords.

Example synonyms/related words:

  • human activity = fossil fuels, deforestation

  • global warming = climate change, greenhouse effect

5. Start searching!

Use your keywords and synonyms as search terms in the Triton College book catalog and online databases.