About Research Tips

Get started on your research

Use the "Steps in the Research Process" at right as a guide and to keep you on track.

Use the tabs near the top of this page to "find reference materials," "find books," "find articles," and more.

Create Alerts

You can create "Alerts" in a number of the library's databases. Alerts let you know when new articles on a topic you specify become available in the database. Alerts are a quick and easy way to stay on top of the latest research in areas of your choice.

Steps in the Research Process

  1. Identify your topic
    Develop a research question that is neither too broad nor too narrow (see the "Identify a Topic" box on this page)

  2. Find background information
    Use encyclopedias, handbooks, and guides plus your class reading materials, to get started (go to "Find Reference Materials" page)

  3. Use the library catalog to find books and media
    Find books, DVDs, videos, etc., in Maxwell Library using our online catalog, and use the Commonwealth Catalog and Interlibrary Loan to obtain books from other libraries (go to "Find Books" page)

  4. Use indexes to find periodical articles
    Find journal, magazine and newspaper articles using the library's many periodical databases (or go to "Find Articles" page)

  5. Find Web resources
    Use Google and other search engines to locate web resources (go to "Find Web Resources" page)

  6. Evaluate what you find
    Quality counts! Ask:
    Who wrote this article or book or created this site?
    What are his/her credentials?
    How long ago was this source published, created or last updated?
    What is the purpose of this website or magazine (to sell something? to represent a particular viewpoint? to provide general information?)
    (See the "Evaluate It!" box on this page)

  7. Cite your sources
    Avoid plagiarism - properly cite your sources (see the "Cite It!" box on this page)

Identify a Topic

Identify a Topic:

  1. Discuss ideas with your course instructor.
  2. Use your class readings and lecture notes to come up with ideas.
  3. Use reference sources in your subject area, such as encyclopedias and handbooks. (Click on the "Find Reference Materials" tab at the top of this page for quick access to some of Maxwell Library's reference sources.)
  4. Talk to a librarian, who will guide you to sources that will help you focus in on a topic.

Once you've identified a topic:

  1. Turn it into a "researchable question," one that is neither too broad nor too narrow.
  2. Pull out keywords and phrases from your question. These will form the basis of the searches you will do in electronic databases, such as ERIC or Education Research Complete. (See the "Find It!" box on this page for how to develop a search strategy.)
  3. Refine your topic as necessary as you learn more and redo your search.

The Literature Review

What is a literature Review?

A literature review is a survey of everything that has been written about a particular topic, theory, or research question... Much more than a simple list of sources, an effective literature review analyzes and synthesizes information about key themes or issues (http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/types-of-writing/literature-review/).

Evaluate It!

Cite It!