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Searching for information for research papers need not be difficult. If you design and follow a plan in your search for information, you will be able to find what you need with greater efficiency.
The following search strategy is intended as a general guide. You can vary it depending on your specific needs, but consider all of these basic steps.
Research takes more time than you think. Begin early so you have enough time to locate quality sources and complete your project.
Select a topic that interests you:
Start by choosing a topic that interests you and that you can cover in the time and space required for your project. Talk to your professor if you need help developing your topic or if you don't understand your assignment.
Understand your assignment:
Make sure you understand the assignment that has been given to you before you start your research. If in doubt, ask your professor for clarification. For additional info on this topic, visit the follow page from the Harvard Guide to Using Sources, which discusses the process of understanding your assignment in more detail.
Read background information:
Take a few minutes to read about your topic in a specialized encyclopedia, dictionary or handbook. These sources will provide you with background information, as well as lists of other sources to get you started on your research. Search for these sources in the Library Catalog and Article Databases.
Make a list of words that describe your topic:
Think about your BROAD and NARROW topics and compile a list of words and synonyms or alternate words that describe them. Use these words when searching for books and articles in the Library Catalog and Article Databases.
Focus on scholarly sources (books and articles):
Use primarily scholarly or peer-reviewed sources. Such sources are typically not freely available on the Web and cannot be found by searching Internet search engines like Google or Yahoo. Use the Library Catalog (for books) and Article Databases to find scholarly sources.
Keep a log of your search process:
Keep track of what sources and search terms "work" and which ones do not.
Cite as you go:
Even if you're not sure whether you will use a source, it's much easier to note the citation information up front than to decide you need it later!