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Introduction to Doing Research

For those new or returning to research, this guide will help you to plan your research projects and use the library more effectively.


Whether you are writing your first academic research paper, diving into a new program of study, or satisfying your curiosity, this guide will help you begin your research process. 
The steps outlined in this guide will help you:

  • Evaluate information
  • Find reliable sources 
  • Cite your sources

The Library is here to support your research journey, offering reliable information and expert guidance. No matter the scope or complexity of your research project, the Library is here to help. Happy researching!

Understanding your assignment

The better you understand your research assignment, the easier it will be to complete. Remember, if any aspect of the assignment seems unclear, ask your instructor to clarify. You need to clearly comprehend the assignments requirements before you begin your research. 

Understanding Writing Assignments from Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) may help you to better understand what your professor wants. Also, visit OWL's pages on common writing assignments.

For tips on writing other types of assignments, check out the Assignment Calculator from the University of Minnesota which covers:

  • Speech/oral presentations
  • Video/media project
  • Posters (in PowerPoint)

Starting your search

Beginning a search does not have to be scary if you take a few moments to come up with a strategy before you start.

  • Choose your topic: If you haven't already, choose your topic. And make it a broad one. It's easier to refine your topic later than to expand it when you can't find specific information.
  • Turn your topic into a question: Determine what you want to know about your topic. Usually, this means relating your topic to another idea.
  • Think of keywords: Come up with a few keywords or phrases to use as search terms. You should have two to four to start.
  • Find books: If you want books or eBooks, search the Library Catalog.
  • Find articles: Select a database that is likely to have articles on your topic. For subject-specific databases, see the list under Articles/Databases on the library homepage. If you are unsure which one to select, use Academic Search Premier, a general database that covers a wide variety of subjects.
    • Type your keywords into the search boxes. Use a separate box for different keywords or phrases. Then click the search button. 
    • Check out your results. 
      • Too many? Add another keyword to narrow your search or add a limiter (e.g. date) 
      • Too few? Remove one of your keywords or add synonyms (e.g. polar bear OR maritime bear)