It's easy to assume that in the age of Google there's no need to think about our research before we start. We can just type a few keywords into the search box on the library homepage and be done with it, right? Not so fast! Scholarly research, which includes the literature searches you conduct for your classes, is an involved process. In order to do it in the most efficient way possible, it's best to spend some time before you get started thinking about what's ahead of you.
Be sure to watch the two short videos below: Peer Review in 3 Minutes, and One Perfect Source?
Take a look at your assignment. What kind of information do you need? A good first step is to establish what sources are required for your assignment. This information is usually included in the assignment description, and may also be described in a grading rubric.
You may ask yourself:
Establishing a baseline will help you to streamline your research process. If these basic requirements are unclear, contact your instructor ASAP rather than waiting until the last minute. You don't want to get caught off-guard!
Having some background knowledge, history, and vocabulary will of course help you understand your topic better, but it will also equip you to do more sophisticated, targeted searches, which will save you time and energy.
Scholarly research is not about finding sources you can use to prove a point you already decided on. It's also not about looking for a single source that somehow covers all the areas of your topic. As you explore your topic, you should be constantly learning, getting new ideas, and expanding your vocabulary. Your job as a scholar is to analyze a variety of sources and use what you have learned to come up with your own conclusions.
The best overall search strategy is to start general and get more specific as you go along. This applies on a number of levels.
It's important for us to all be on the same page regarding the language we use to talk about scholarly research and publishing. Here are some essential concepts you'll need to be familiar with to do your research: