Not sure where to start your research? Below are four common types of sources used in research. Read about what they can contribute to your research and then explore the rest of the guide to learn how to find the sources. Remember the library staff is always here to help you! Contact our AskUs service or subject librarians if you have any questions.
Reference Sources, such as encyclopedias, handbooks and dictionaries, are a good place to start your research because they provide:
Books in both print and electronic format provide:
Articles in both print and electronic format provide:
Websites must be evaluated for credibility, authority and accuracy before using and provide:
Keywords are words that carry content and meaning. The keywords in the research question "What is the feeding range of the blue whale in the Pacific Ocean?" are feeding range, blue whale and Pacific Ocean.
Think of words similar to your keywords in case a database doesn't use your original keywords. Synonyms for blue whale are baleen whale and Balaenoptera musculus.
A Boolean search is a search using the words AND, OR and NOT between the keywords. These words have a special function when used in a database.
You can avoid doing multiple searches for variations on word endings using the truncation symbol * (the asterisk) in most databases. Entering the keyword "blue whale*" will look for both blue whale and blue whales.
If you want a literature review, add "AND review" to your keywords. To find a research study, add "AND study" to your keywords.
Always go to the Advanced Search in a database to enter your Boolean searches because it gives you multiple boxes with the Boolean operators between them. If you are using a search with multiple search strings, enter OR within the search boxes and AND between the search boxes, e.g., [blue whale OR Balaenoptera musculus] AND [feeding range OR feeding grounds] AND [Pacific Ocean].
Many instructors require you to use peer-reviewed sources for your papers and projects, but what does that mean?
Most databases allow you to limit your search to peer-reviewed articles. Here are two examples: