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

General 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 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 that 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?
    • 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 topic into a specific research 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.
  • If you are researching domestic violence, here are sample research questions:
Question 1:

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

Question 2:

 How does abuse impact the family structure?

Question 3:

 Are men more apt than women to be abusive?

Question 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?

 

Search term 1
Search term 2
Search term 3
woman
self defense
abuse
Question 2:

 How does abuse impact the family structure?

Search term 1
Search term 2
abuse
family structure
Question 3:

 Are men more apt than women to be abusive?

Search term 1
Search term 2
Search term 3
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?

Search term 1
Search term 2
Search term 3
abuse
woman
nineteenth century
  • Defining your major search term(s) is especially important when you use the subscription Research Databases/Indexes which use Boolean and truncation search techniques to be able to combine the major search term(s).

 


 Step 6

Identify possible synonyms for each major search term(s)

  •  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).

Examples:

Example #1
Example #2
Example #3
Example #4
car*
cat*
doctor*
dog*
automobile*
feline*
medical doctor
canine*
transportation
physician*
vehicle*
truck*
  • 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 1
Search term 2
Search term 3
woman
self defense
abuse
women
self preservation
domestic violence
wom*n
self protection
martial conflict
female*

 

physical abuse
girl*

 

spousal abuse
Question 2:

 How does abuse impact the family structure?

Search term 1
Search term 2
abuse
family
domestic violence
dysfunctional family
family violence
family relations
physical abuse
family structure
Question 3:

 Are men more apt than women to be abusive?

 
Search term 1
Search term 2
Search term 3
man
woman
abuse
men
women
domestic violence
men
wom*n
marital conflict
male*
female*
physical abuse
boy*
girl*
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 1
Search term 2
Search term 3
abuse
woman
nineteenth century
domestic violence
women
history - 19th century
marital conflict
wom*n
civilization, modern - 19th century
physical abuse
female*
eighteen nineties
spousal abuse
girl*

 


 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.
Articles
Documents

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

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/Indexes in several subject areas that will help you find articles on your research topic.

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.
PacCat
Summit (formerly Orbis)
PORTALS
WorldCat

InterLibrary Services

As part of the PacCat catalog record, you will see a Call No.

The Call No. will help you locate the book on the Library's shelves.

You may use the Summit (formerly Orbis) automated borrowing feature.

You may also visit that specific Library to check out the book in person.

If you located a book in one of the PORTALS catalogs, you may drive to that Library to check out the book(s).

Please check with the Circulation Department first to make sure you have everything you need to check out the book from that Library.

WorldCat is a catalog that has over 40 million cataloged records.

By using WorldCat, your citation is automatically attached to your Interlibrary Services request.

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:

Do This
  • Check PacCat, the Library's on-line catalog, to see if the Pacific University Library has the periodical in print.
    1. If so, the periodical will be on the Library's second floor, arranged alphabetically by the title. You can then photocopy the article.
    2. Copies are $.05 per page.

If the Library does not have the periodical in print:

Do this First
Do this Second
Do this as a last resort

Use the E-journals link 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/Index first before proceeding to the specific periodical and/or article.

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!

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

Check ORULS to see if another Oregon library -- specifically one in the Portland area -- has the periodical.

You can then visit that Library to photocopy the article.


Step 11

Evaluate the resource(s)

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