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ENGL 082 Bailey

Introduction to Library resources

Getting Started

What is your information need?

If you know what you're looking for, you'll be better able to recognize it when you've found your answer. Defining your information need helps you know where to start looking. What information do you need? What information do you already have on the subject? What facts or background information do you already know? Do you want general or specific information about the subject? How much information do you want? A single fact? A paragraph? An entire book? What types of information do you want? What information sources (databases, library catalogs, encyclopedias, the Internet) will help you find the information you need? 

Begin with a Research Plan

  1. Brainstorm topics you are interested in
  2. Review your assignment requirements
  3. Brainstorm keywords and synonyms that define your topic
  4. Gather background information and find relevant resources
  • Examine your assignment and identify any requirements.
  • Define and explore your topic. Try narrowing your topic down or broadening it.
  • Clearly state your research question, what question are you trying to answer?
  • Develop a thesis and specific ideas you would like to explore.
  • Determine the types of information and resources you need and where you might look
  • Find resources related to your topic. 
  • Evaluate what you have found against your research questions and assignment. Evaluate the quality of your sources.
  • Begin extracting information from your sources and document where you are getting the information from. Create references and citations for your sources. 
  • Write your paper or assignment

Search Terms & Keywords

Keywords are the most important words for the research portion of your assignment. These are the main words that you will use when describing the information your need to find in the library and on the Internet.

Keywords will be related to your selected topic. For example:

  • Mental health
  • Nature
  • Environment
  • COVID-19
  • Education
  • Fashion

You can think of different keywords for each of these topics, some will be more specific and some more broad. This is important because people who write about these ideas may use different words to talk about the same ideas. See below for some ideas to get you started.

Generate Synonyms & Similar Ideas

Use this example to help you think of different keywords for your topic. The example topic is the environmental effects of the fashion industry.

  • Synonyms: environment OR nature OR earth OR planet OR forests; fashion industry OR clothing OR wardrobe 
  • Different spellings: Industry, industries, environmental, environment
  • Similar ideas: climate change, global warming, natural disasters, sustainability, microplastic waste
  • Narrower terms: fast fashion, deforestation, soil degradation, greenhouse gas
  • Broader terms: sustainability AND clothing

Refer to a search engine, thesaurus, or even Wikipedia for ideas on synonyms


Sources of information

Use keywords to find reliable sources. Evaluate all sources according to the information in this guide.

Picking your Topic

Developing a Research Question

Examples of problematic research questions

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