A. Choose a topic
B. Find background information
C. Refine a topic
D. Select resources
E. Search for information
F. Evaluate resources
G. Cite resources
** The above from Duke University suggested steps for research.
A. Choose a topic
- What do you want to know about? What interests you?
- Develop your own questions about the subject.
- Produce some interesting information about something, do not just repeat information – this aids in preventing inadvertent plagiarism.
B. Find Background Information
- Do a general search using the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog at Avon Old Farms is called FarmCAT) in the library for print sources and a variety of search engines on the Web and see what the results are. Perhaps a topic directory might help you find an interesting subject to pursue.
- Are there any general resources that point in a direction? Any recommended links?
- Online encyclopedias all have link suggestions that are subject specific.
- Do they suggest any keywords, names, dates, or related organizations you had not thought about?
- Is there a bibliography that could point you in a direction?
- Some great screened sources:
- Literacy in the Digital Age www.schooldiscovery.com/shrockguide
- Yahoo Topic Directory -great topic index that is human generated www.yahoo.com
- LookSmart.com www.looksmart.com
C. Refine a Topic- Narrow the subject
- Consider your personal interest and the availability of information.
- Exactly what question(s) do I want to answer? Make a list of options. Develop keywords – list for searches using boolean operators, think carefully and thoroughly.
D. Select Resources- What would be the best resources for this type of material? Think about the resources available to you:
- Books – nonfiction and fiction
- Reference Books-– we have an excellent reference section – selected to fulfill your assignments
- Databases provided by the school
- Internet searches – specific search engines or websites (human selected vs robotic selection)
- Journals- ( mostly serious research oriented articles written by professors and other researchers for readers who already know something about the topic- bibliography included),
- Newspapers – current and historical – national & international
- Public or corporate databases you may have available
- What are your requirements for sources?
E. Searching For Information
- For internet searching, use SuperSearch Mega Search Engine.
- Do not waste your time wandering – give yourself a limit then ask for help
- Review the databases available – See Electronic Resources page of this website. Search those for pertinent material at school and public libraries Determine what is relevant or subject specific.
F. Evaluate your Results
Review results of what you have collected to see if you are done:
- Quantity of resources needed – Type required
- Diversity – primary & secondary -viewpoints covered
- Scope – depth of coverage, arrangement of material, currency, consistency
- Merit – quality, validity, author’s expertise, content, tone intended audience, authority
- How happy am I with what I have found – do I need more? Of a different type or along a similar vein….where can I go to get that information?
- Have I excluded anything or area of coverage that is important?
- Check the bibliographies of articles or books covered for ideas of resources
- Am I frustrated with the results? How do I change the topic or search strategy to locate what I need?
- Have I written parts and find there is something else I need additionally? Exactly what do I need?
Specifically Evaluate the web resources you have:
- Who is the authority of the information?
- Who created the site?
- What are their credentials?
- What organization is this affiliated with?
- What is the domain (edu mil gov com net)?
- Is there a ~ which means this is a personal page- if so, how far back can you go to check for validity?
- Have you done a search on the creators of the page to find additional information to perhaps show that the author is an expert?
- Who links to this page? In a search engine type in link: and the url to find out.
- Is there a bias?
- Are there citations?
- What is the last date the site was updated?
- Is the information useful in answering your question?
G. Cite Resources
- Remember, different formats require different data – keep track of your material
- Note databases retrieved from, date accessed, URL
- When in doubt cite everything !
- Keep printed copies in a folder for verification if need be
- Photocopy both sides of the title page of a book or reference book with publisher/publication information to save yourself headaches
- *** If you are not sure what constitutes plagiarism see this site: How Not to Plagiarize
- Reframing others ideas is still plagiarism
- Use the free bibliographic tools: www.EASYbib.com creates bibliographies for you in both MLA and APA style – very easy and useful and timesaving
- See the Citation Aides page of this website for other resources
Remember, some resources have a “how to cite this source” notation
at the bottom of the article; print it !!
Boolean Logic – tools to improve your searching skills online
- Use “Quotation Marks” for phrase searches: “global warming” looks for entire phrase
- AND/+ two or more words that must appear: renaissance AND Sculpture +renaissance +sculpture
- NOT/- excludes words: Python NOT Monty Cowboys NOT Dallas
- OR broader net—President Clinton OR Bill Clinton
- NEAR words that appears within 10 words– constitution NEAR electoral college Nested parenthesis ( ) Canton NEAR (Ohio OR OH)
- Wild Cards *? Look for variations of *Medic references medicine, medical, medication etc.
- Stop Words are common words and are ignored. To insure considered use, use in quotations “to be or not to be” Portland NEAR “OR”
- Word order is important