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Introduction to Library Research: An Overview of the Research Process

This guide is an introduction to the research process.

Background Information

Before you can start any research on your topic, you must have a background knowledge about your topic. Books, reference sources, and websites can provide you with that knowledge.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
  2. This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language people are using to discuss your topic, then you should consider narrowing your topic.

Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.

Wikipedia Yes, it is OK to use Wikipedia for background information, but never cite to it. And only use it as a starting point.

Library resources to use to find background information:

Identify Keywords

Before you can begin searching for information, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be easily be found by scanning:

  • Your research questions
  • Articles found from background research
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles

If you are still struggling:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms.
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe them.
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend.
  • Use a keyword generator.