Beginning Your Research

Steps:

  1. Have fun
  2. What are you looking for?
  3. Focus your research topic
  4. Turn your research topic into a specific research question
  5. Identify the key or major search term(s) of the research question
  6. Identify possible synonyms for each major search term(s)
  7. Determine the subject discipline(s)
  8. What resource(s) to use
  9. Citations/results
  10. Locate the resource(s)
  11. Evaluate the resource(s)

Step 1

Have fun!

Step 2: What Are You Looking For?

The Reference Librarian can point you in the right direction!

  • When you begin the research process, it is important to have a general idea of what you need. You can use your class textbook, your instructor, or even your classmates to help you generate ideas.
  • You can browse the Library's reference resources, journals, magazines, or newspapers to help you identify a topic
  • Before you start your research, jot down any words, significant names, phrases, or subjects that will help you get started. At this point, it can be fairly general; such as, domestic violence, World War II, eating disorders, smoking, sharks, or diseases.
  • The Library has some resources that can help you do basic background research on your topic; for example:
Title Call Number
CQ Researcher REF H35 .C35
Facts on File REF D410 .F3
Ideas in Conflict Varies according to topic
Generalized and Specialized subject encyclopedias, such as;  

Encyclopedia Britannica

 

McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology

REF Q121 .M3 1997

World Book

REF AE5 . W55 1998

 

Step 3: Focus on Your Research Topic

Once you have a basic idea what information you would like to find, it is important to become a little more specific. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Do I need brief information or something more involved?
  • Do I want to use articles or books or government documents?
  • Do I need to find articles in popular magazines, or do I need to use research studies?
  • What specifically about this topic is important to me?
  • What would I like to learn about this topic?
  • What do I need to find that will help support my position?
  • How will I find this information?
  • Am I researching an event that occurred a long time ago?
  • Do I have personal knowledge that I would like to expand?
  • Am I interested in finding articles from a particular perspective?
  • Do I need an historical overview?
  • Do I need current information?
  • Do I need statistics?
  • Do I need to locate pictures?
  • Do I need to talk to a person with a specific organization?
  • Does it matter when the material was published?

And even,

  • How long is my paper?
  • How much time do I have?
  • What class level am I?
  • When is my paper due?
  • Will I have time to obtain the resource(s) from another Library (InterLibrary Services) if this Library does not have it?

An important aspect of doing research is being flexible and willing to change your research topic as you discover a new focus, discover a lack of available information, or you ran out of time.

 

Step 4: Turn your Research into a Specific Question

By turning your research topic into a question, you focus on what you really want to research. Also, the research question will help define your search term(s) before you begin the actual search. You can do this step before you begin your actual research or after you have done some preliminary investigation on your topic.

For example, if you are researching domestic violence, here are sample research questions:

  1. Should self defense be used as a legitimate excuse when a woman kills her husband after years of abuse?
  2. How does abuse impact the family structure?
  3. Are men more apt than women to be abusive?
  4. It seems that domestic violence has been a recent issue. How severe was abuse to women in the nineteenth century?

Step 5: Identify the key or major search term(s) of your research question

Once you have turned your general research topic into a question, it is important for you to identify the major search term(s) of your research question.

For the research questions on domestic violence, here are possible search term(s):

Question 1: Should self-defense be used as a legitimate excuse when a woman kills her husband after years of abuse?

  • woman
  • self-defense
  • abuse

Question 2: How does abuse impact the family structure?

  • abuse
  • family structure

Question 3: Are men more apt than women to be abusive?

  • man
  • woman
  • abuse

Question 4: It seems that domestic violence has been a recent issue. How severe was abuse to women in the nineteenth century?

  • abuse
  • woman
  • nineteenth century

Defining your major search term(s) is especially important when you use the subscription Research Databases which use Boolean and truncation search techniques to be able to combine the major search terms.

 

Step 6: Identify possible synonyms for every major search term

It is important for you to identify alternative words for your major search term(s) You can find more information on your research question if you have several words that you can use to search. Some subject disciplines have specific words or phrases used to describe a particular event or situation, and unless you search using that word or phrase, you may miss some information.

Look at dictionaries, encyclopedias, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and thesauri to help determine other words for your your major search term(s).

Example Term Alternative(s)
car automobile, transportation, vehicle, truck
cat feline, 
doctor medical doctor, physician,
dog canine

For the research questions on domestic violence, here are possible synonyms:

Question 1: Should self-defense be used as a legitimate excuse when a woman kills her husband after years of abuse?

Search term Alternative(s)
woman women, wom*n, female, girl
self-defense self preservation, self protection
abuse domestic violence, physical abuse, marital conflict, spousal abuse

Question 2: How does abuse impact the family structure?

Search Term Alternative(s)
abuse domestic violence, family violence, physical abuse
family dysfunctional family, family relations, family structure

Question 3: Are men more apt than women to be abusive?

Search Term Alternative(s)
man men, male, boy 
woman women, wom*n, female, girl
abuse domestic violence, marital conflict, physical abuse, spousal abuse

Question 4: It seems that domestic violence has been a recent issue. How severe was abuse to women in the nineteenth century?

Search Term Alternative(s)
abuse domestic violence, marital conflict, physical abuse, spousal abuse
woman women, wom*n, female, girl
nineteenth century history-19th century, civilization: modern-19th century, eighteen nineties

 

Step 7: Determine the subject discipline(s)

It is important for you to think about what area(s) or subject discipline(s) that will have information on your research question. This will help you determine which resources to use later.

If you are researching the domestic violence research questions, ask yourself if I would find anything in:

  1. criminal justice? history? law? medicine? psychology? sociology?
  2. or do I just need an overview?

You can use more than one subject discipline to find information!

 

Step 8: What resource(s) to use

The types of resources you use depend on the questions asked in Step 2.

Books, etc: To find books, etc. that are on your research topic, the Library has access to several catalogs.

Articles: To help you find specific articles published in specific magazines, journals, or newspapers on a variety of subjects, the Library has several print and subscription Research Databases in several subject areas that will help you find articles on your research topic.

Documents: Another information resource to consider is federal, state, and local governments. Governmental agencies, for example, are an excellent resource for statistical data and Congressional hearings.

 

Step 9: Citations/Results

As you continue your research, it is important for you to write or print out the results which are also known as citations. A citation will help you locate a specific book or article, whether it is in this Library or in another Library. Citations are also crucial when you are preparing your bibliography.

It is especially important to have the correct citation when you order materials through InterLibrary Services.

 

Step 10: Locate the resource(s)

Once you have the citations, you now have to locate the resource(s).

Books, Etc:

Boxer Search As part of the Boxer Search record display, you will see a Call Nunber.

The Call Nunber. will help you locate the book on the Library's shelves.

Summit

Summit is a library consortium composed of 30 Oregon and Washington college and university libraries.   The Summit catalog also includes WorldCat, which has over 46 million catalog records.

InterLibrary Services You may use the Library's Interlibrary Services service to obtain a book not available by the other methods.

Articles:

Determine if the Library has the periodical in print:

  1. Check Boxer Search, the Library's online catalog, to see if the Pacific University Library has the periodical in print.
  2. If so, the periodical will be on the Library's second floor, arranged alphabetically by the title. You can then photocopy the article.

Copies are $.05 per page.

If the Library does not have the periodical in print:

First Access E-journals to determine if the Library has web-based access to the specific periodical and/or article.

If you are accessing the E-journals link off-campus, you will need to open a new browser window and access the specific Research Database first before proceeding to the specific periodical and/or article.

Second Use Interlibrary Services if that Library does not have the periodical either in print or as web-based. Please remember to include the ISSN (International Standard Serials Number) when completing your Interlibrary Services form!

If you are using a Research Database, the ISSN appears only in the full or complete display of the citation -- not in the abstract or citation only display.

 

Step 11: Evaluate the resource(s)

It is very important to evaluate the information you find, applying critical thinking and analysis skills.