Research Guides

Basic Search Strategy  

This guide is designed to provide you with key ideas to go about developing a research strategy.

 Basic library research strategy involves: 

    1. Select a topic.  Make sure that you understand assignment expectations in terms of scope, purpose, and limits within which you must confine your topic.

In choosing a topic, make sure you select one:

a)      That really interests you.

b)      That you can cover adequately within the time and limits assigned.

c)      About which you can find enough information.

    2. Find background information on your topic.

a)       General dictionaries, encyclopedias, manuals, handbooks, etc.  Look for a comprehensive definition of your topic.

b)      Subject/specialized reference tools are additional sources to use if your subject must be confined within a certain area, such as English, Social Sciences, or Health Sciences.

c)      Think of ways to limit your topic and formulate a preliminary thesis or topic statement, which is one to two sentence summary of the main point of your paper.

d)      Think of questions that can be asked about your topic, and consider possible controversies, influences, trends, problems, or effects. 

e)      Be as specific as possible.

    3. List keywords/terms.

a)       Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included.

    4.  Locate information on your topic.

a)       Search the library’s online catalog to identify books that are related to your topic.

b)       Find articles on your topic.  You may access articles through electronic databases, or in the library’s periodical collection.  Articles in periodicals (magazines and journals) contain current information not found in books. 

c)      Government publications contain helpful material on a variety of subjects.

d)      Newspaper articles are a good source for recent developments in topics of current interest or for contemporary accounts of past events.

    5.  Locate additional information as needed.

a)       Biographies

b)      Book Reviews

c)      Literary Criticisms

d)      Statistics


This search has taken you from general to more specific information on your topic.  Throughout the entire process there are two things to always keep in mind:

  1.  Take careful notes on your search so that you are able to review and evaluate your progress.
  2. Copy complete bibliographic information for all material consulted so you can easily complete a bibliography

Consult the reference librarian if you need additional suggestions for gathering information.