Before you get started, read your assignment carefully and look for these key components:
- Check for the due date. This will help you with time management to determine when you need to search for sources, make time to read them, and write your paper or create your project or presentation. Some assignments have different parts due at different times. Make sure that you check all of the due dates!
- Check the length of the assignment, which could be listed in pages, word count, or minutes for a presentation. The length of the assignment will help you determine the scope of your topic.
- Review style and formatting information, such as font size, spacing, and citation style. Get help citing your sources.
- Note the number of and type(s) of outside sources that your instructor requires to support your research. Refer to the table below to help you decide where to look for different kinds of sources.
- Pay attention to topic guidance and suggestions. Some instructors will offer specific suggestions while others will provide basic guidelines to help you choose a topic. Check for points and questions that the instructor wants you to address in your assignment.
- Highlight or underline the elements that are key to understanding your assignment. If you find that you cannot describe what your assignment is about to someone else, you should re-read the assignment or ask your professor for clarification.
Starting your search
Look for the types of sources the instructor requires, such as peer-reviewed articles, newspaper articles, data, books, or videos. Different sources are found in different places. Below is an introductory guide to finding different kinds of resources. More information can be found in our guide to types of resources.
Best Place to Start
|Books||Use the search on the library homepage and narrow your search results using the “Resource type” options to view “Books.” Note that you may have to click on “Show More” for the “Books” filter to appear.|
|Journal articles||Use the search on the library homepage and narrow your search results using the “Resource type” options to view “Articles.” You can also find a database that relates to your topic by going to the databases list and choosing “Articles” from the “All Database Types” drop-down menu and a particular subject from the “All Subjects” drop-down menu.|
|Newspaper articles||Use the search on the library homepage and narrow your search results using the “Newspapers” filter in the “Resource type” options. Alternatively, find a database that specializes in newspaper articles by choosing “News” from the “All Database Types” drop-down menu in the library databases list.|
|Primary sources||Find a database that specializes in primary sources by choosing “Primary Sources” from the “All Database Types” drop-down menu in the library databases list. You can also use the search on the library homepage and narrow your results using the “Resource type” options to view a particular type of material such as maps or archival material/manuscripts.|
|Video||Use the search on the library homepage and narrow your search results using the “Resource type” options to view “Videos.” You can also find a database that specializes in streaming video by choosing “Video” from the “All Database Types” drop-down menu on the library databases list. View our Streaming Video page for more information on streaming video sources.|
The research topic you choose will have an impact on the types of resources you will need to find. Some topics are covered in both books and articles. Current events are more likely to be covered in the news. The peer-review process takes months, and research covering very recent events may not be available until some time after the event occurs.
- If you need help picking a topic to research, review our guide to generating a research question.
- If you need help starting a search, review our guides to generating keywords and choosing relevant and appropriate search results.
- If your initial search did not yield enough results, review our guides to expanding on your initial search and narrowing and broadening search results.
- Lastly, check out how to keep your research organized.