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:>) Get Started!: Start Here!

Brief instructions on how to start your research.

7 steps to Successful Research

 

Step 1:  Peruse the Library's Web Site:

Familiarize yourself with the library's Online Catalog: Discoverydatabases, journals, Interlibrary Loan and other library services.

Step 2:  Get Background Information:

Use encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, textbooks, or other general works to provide background information, a readymade outline, expert authors and contextual parameters on a topic. See Find eBooks for access to softcopy reference books anytime anywhere.  See Reference Resources Research Guide for a description of the various types of reference tools and their use.

Step 3:  Use the Library Catalog:

To find books, ebooks, CDs, DVD, etc. search the library’s catalog, (“Discovery” or "Discovery Advanced")  From the results list, use the “Description” tab associated with each record to identify appropriate Subject Headings and for help in identifying related resources.

Step 4:  Find Articles:

To find articles relating to your topic use periodical indexes like Academic Search Complete, and ProQuest Research Library.  Use the "Find Databases" search options.

Step 5:  USE SOURCES TO FIND OTHER SOURCES.

This is the key to doing efficient and effective research.  Bibliographies, subject headings, authors, call numbers and cited references from each resource found can be used to find more sources.  For example use the bibliographies found in encyclopedia articles as a beginning source for both book titles and expert authors.  Use the Subjects found with each item in the library catalog to search for other items with the same subject.  Use the call numbers associated with each item to browse for similar items on the same topic.

Step 6:  Evaluate all Resources

Examine each potential resource for relevancy to your information need.  Consider the purpose of the material; the authority and expertise of the source (author/creator, publisher/provider); the accuracy, comprehensiveness and currency of the content.  See Evaluating Resources from “Help with Research” for more information.

Step 7:  Librarians are your friends.  

Introduce yourself to the Reference Librarian.  S/He can help you find what you need much more efficiently and effectively.  There is no special grace granted to those who work harder instead of smarter.

Get Background Information

Get acquainted with your topic by searching broad range tools like encyclopedias and dictionaries.  These will give you a basic outline, the broad parameters of your topic and some general information on the subject.  This will help you focus your research topic as well as enhance your understanding of the topic as you read more detailed resources.  The bibliographies and authors of encyclopedia articles are excellent sources for further research.
 
Find Encyclopedias and Dictionaries:
 Search Discovery Advanced -
The easiest and best method of finding encyclopedias & dictionaries on any topic is to use these words as search terms in Discovery Advanced.

In the first search box select [Subject] and type <encyclopedias OR dictionaries>.
 
NOTE: “encyclopedias” and “dictionaries” must be plural; “OR” must be in all caps.
 
In the next search box, type in your topic. Consider the benefit of selecting the field options of title or keyword viz a viz subject. Which field you choose depends in part on how broad or narrow your topic keyword is within the hierarchy of its related field. Therefore, it may be more effective to search a broad topic in a narrow field like subject or title and search a narrow topic in a broader field like keyword.  See Figure 1 below.
 
Background Search
Figure 1
 
It is also very helpful to limit the Format: to Books; Audience: to Not Juvenile; and Content: to NonFiction. Consider limiting the Language: to English as well (see Figure 1 above).  The language limit is especially useful when searching Libraries Worldwide as well as ATLAReligion as both databases include many foreign language materials.

How to Do Research: The Short of it.

In a phrase, research is the process of “USING SOURCES TO FIND MORE SOURCES”.  Here you will find a brief explanation of the basic steps involved in research while applying this principle.

Select and focus your topic:  If you can select your own topic, pick something that is of interest to you and for which there are sufficient resources available.  Be careful not to select a topic that is too broad or too narrow but make sure you limit your topic to just one concept.  Ask and answer the question "So what", about your topic.  You can be sure your readers will. This will help you develop a better more focused topic and it will help guide your research.  Use key terms from your topic to begin your search.

Identify terminology:  Use what you know to find what you don't know.  Make a list of authors, titles, and keywords that you already know.  Turn your topic into a title.  Use the keywords from the title as key search terms and as the basis for a preliminary outline. Allow yourself the freedom to change the title, outline and even the topic as your research informs your ideas.  Identify synonyms, broader terms, narrower terms and related terms, alternate spellings, scientific or technical terms as well as common terms.  Consider your selected terms within their related subject hierarchies: Doctrinal Theology - Salvation - Christianity. The best place to get this kind of information is the Library of Congress Subject Headings Online (http://id.loc.gov/authorities/subjects.html)

Tools to search.  Using the authors, titles and terminology you now have:

Go to the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) (i.e. WorldCat Discovery and Discovery Advanced) to locate library materials related to your topic.  Apply “Using sources to find more sources” to your search results (hit list) by examining the Subject field in the Description portion of each record.  This will provide more appropriate terms with which to find more relevant resources. Check for additional records by searching the call numbers and the authors (hyperlinked for easy searching).  And when you locate materials that are helpful, use their respective bibliographies to identify even more sources; another example of “using sources to find more sources”

Get acquainted with your topic by searching broad range tools like encyclopedias and dictionaries.  These will give you a basic outline, the broad parameters of your topic and some general information on the subject.  This will help you focus your research topic as well as enhance your understanding of the topic as you read more detailed resources.  The bibliographies and authors of encyclopedia articles are excellent sources for further research, which is a prime example of using sources to find more sources.  To easily identify encyclopedias and dictionaries on any topic, Search Discovery Advanced using the search string “encyclopedias OR dictionaries” in the Subject field AND’d with your topic either in the Subject field or as a keyword. Limit the Format “Book”.  If you can’t find anything on your specific topic, try searching its broader context (e.g. search the broader concept of “medicine” if a search for “osteoarthritis” doesn’t retrieve any results)

In addition to searching books, you may want current information not yet published in book form.  Periodicals will need to be searched for the most current scholarly information available on a subject.  Searching periodical indexes and abstracting sources will identify for you the articles available on your topic.  These can be accessed through “Discovery” by limiting the format to Articles.  Better still, use “Find Databases” for a more focused search of specialized indexes and databases related to the selected category.  Use the authors, keywords and subject headings you discovered from your reading of encyclopedia articles, the records that you found in your Discovery search and the bibliographies from the books you’ve found. 

Recommended Reading for help in Library Research:  Badke, William.  Research Strategies:  Finding Four Way Through the Information Fog, 5 ed. Bloomington, IN: IUniverse, Inc., 2014.  ISBN: 9781491722336  Call # 001.42/B142r/2014. Or you may access a free abridged version online at http://acts.twu.ca/Library/textbook.htm .

A Research Worksheet is available designed to take you step by step through the process described above.

Data Discovery

Data Discovery – The basic process of finding information illustrated with a flow chart.

 

 Data Discovery

 Data Discovery Delineated

1.      When conducting research, you generally start with a TOPIC.  You must first determine if you will need books or articles or both to fulfill your research need.

a.      If you need BOOKS on your topic, you will need to search the library CATALOG

Question: Did you find the book(s) you want?  If you did, then get it from the shelf or view it online as appropriate.  If you did not, then submit an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) request for those that you want, but the library does not have.

 b.      When you need to find ARTICLES, you will need to search Periodical INDEXES.  The periodical indexes available to TMU students are found with the “Find Databases” link on the library Web site or the LibGuides link.  Both will retrieve the Indexes/Databases Libguide containing all of the indexes and databases to which the library subscribes.  

c.  Periodical Indexes will always return a list if CITATIONS and possibly even the FULL TEXT of the article(s).

Question:  Is the Full Text available, either hardcopy in the library or softcopy online?  If it is, go to the shelf or view the ARTICLE online.  If the article is not available, submit and ILL request.

 2.      When conducting research, you will sometimes have a citation to an article or a book or perhaps a thesis and these will be either hardcopy or softcopy.  To find out if the TMU library can provide you with the needed resource:

a.  If your citation is for a BOOK, a THESIS or a DISSERTATION, you will need to search the library CATALOG.

Question: Did you find the item you want?  If you did, then get it from the shelf or view it online as appropriate.  If you did not, then submit an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) request for it.  You may submit a request for the whole item or for chapters or for pages from the book, thesis or dissertation.  These will take less time to get than the whole thing and they will be yours to keep.

b.  If your citation is for an ARTICLE, then the easiest method of checking to see if the library has the article is to first identify the JOURNAL title containing the article.  Then go to “FIND JOURNALS” on the library Web site and search for the journal.

Question:  Does the library provide access to the journal containing the article?  If not, submit an ILL request. If the library doesn't have the journal, it's not going to have the article.

Question:  If the Journal is available, check to see if the volume and issue of the needed article is available, if so check for the Full text and either go to the shelf or view it online. If not, submit an Interlibrary Loan request.

Subject Guide

Janet Tillman
Powell Library Discovery

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