Six Steps to Effective Library Research

The Steps
Identify And Develop Your Topic
Find Background Information
Find Books
Find Periodical Articles
Evaluate What You Find
Cite What You Find
How to Find and Develop a Viable
Research Topic: Step One
State your topic idea as a question. For example if
you are interested in finding out about the use of
alcoholic beverages by college students, you might
pose the question, “What effect does the use of
alcoholic beverages have on the health of college
Identify the main concepts or keywords in your
question. For example, alcoholic beverages and
health and college students.
How to Find and Develop a Viable
Research Topic: Step Two
Test your topic. Test the main concepts or keywords on
your topic by looking them up in the appropriate
background sources or by testing them as search terms
in a database.
If you are finding too much information and too many
sources may indicate that your topic is too broad,
narrow your topic by changing your keywords just a
little bit. For example, beer and health and college
Finding too little information may indicate that your
topic is too narrow. For example, look for information on
students, rather than college students.
Finding Background Information
Once you have identified the main topic and
keywords for you research, find one or more sources
of background information to read. These sources
will help you understand the broader context of
your research and tell you in general terms what
you need to know about your topic.
The most common background sources are
encyclopedias and dictionaries, as well as class
Finding Books
Use OTC’s Catalog to locate books supporting your
research topic. Our catalog will locate books in
both the Springfield and Richwood Valley
You can also use the Mobius Catalog to locate over
eight million items form around the state of Missouri.
This items will be delivered to OTC within 3-4
business days.
Finding Periodicals
What are periodicals? Periodicals are continuous
publications such as journals, newspapers or
magazines. Periodicals are issued regularly, this
includes daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.
To find an article
 When
you don’t have a citation to a specific article but
you want to find articles on a subject, but a specific
author/s, or with a known title, you need to use the
library’s databases.
Databases; what’s that?
A library database is an online resource that the
library subscribes to, that contains articles and
information from print sources such as magazines,
newspapers, journals and reference books. There
are two different types of databases that the OTC
library subscribes to.
Article Databases
An article database enables you to search through
thousands of different magazines, journals and
newspapers to find articles on a particular topic.
Some articles you find will be full text, others you
will find an abstract. You will, depending on what
database you are using, need to select the full text
Reference Databases
Reference databases provide reference information
(facts, statistics, and background information) from
many different print sources.
Databases are NOT considered internet sources.
How to Evaluate the Information
Sources you Find
Evaluating the authority, usefulness and reliability of
the information you find is a crucial step in the
process of library research.
Initial Appraisal
A) Author
 What
are the author’s credentials, educational
background, past works and/or experiences.
 Has your instructor mentioned this author in their lessons
or in passing?
 Is the author associated with a reputable institution or
organization? Who are they, what are their goals?
Initial Appraisal
B) Date of Publication
 When
was the source published?
 Is the source current or out of date for you chosen
Initial Appraisal
Edition or Revision
 Is
this a first edition of this publication or not?
 Further
edition indicated the source has been revised and
updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include omissions,
etc. Many editions indicate that the source has become a
standard in that field of study.
Initial Appraisal
D) Publisher
 Note
who the publisher is. If the source is published by
a university press, it is likely to be scholarly. Although
the fact that the publisher is reputable it does not
guarantee quality; it does show that the publisher may
have high regard for the source being published.
Initial Appraisal
E) Title of Journal
 Is
this a scholarly or popular journal? This distinction is
important because it indicates different levels of
complexity in conveying ideas.
 Since many instructors prefer students to use scholarly
journals many of our databases have included this as a
search options; for example, look for ‘Scholarly PeerReviewed’.
Content Analysis
Have made an initial appraisal, you should now
examine the body of the source. Read the preface
to determine the author’s intentions for the book.
Scan the table of contents and the index to get a
broad overview of the material it covers. Note
whether bibliographies are included.
Content Analysis
A) Intended Audience
 What
type of audience is the author addressing? Is the
publication aimed at a specialized or a general
audience? Is this source too elementary, too technical,
too advanced, or just right for your needs?
Content Analysis
B) Objective Reasoning
Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda?
Facts can usually be verified; opinions, though they may be
based on factual information, evolve from the interpretation
of facts.
 Does the information appear to be valid and wellresearched, or is it questionable and unsupported by
 Are the ideas are arguments advanced more or less in line
with other works you have read on the same topic?
 Is the author’s point of view objective and impartial? Is the
language free of emotion-arousing words and bias?
Content Analysis
C) Coverage
 Does
the work update other sources, substantiate other
materials you have read, or add new information?
Does it extensively or marginally cover your topic?
 Is the material primary of secondary in nature? Primary
sources are the raw material of the research process.
Secondary sources are based on primary sources.
Chose both primary and secondary sources when you
have the opportunity.
Content Analysis
D) Writing Style
 Is
the publication organized logically? Are the main
points clearly presented? Do you find the text easy to
read, or is it stilted or choppy? Is the author’s argument
Cite What you Find Using a Standard
Give credit where credit is due; cite your sources.
Citing or documenting the sources used in your
research serves two purposes, it gives proper credit
to the authors of materials use, and it allows those
who are reading your work to duplicate your
research and locate the sources that you have listed
as references.
Knowingly representing the work of others as your
own is plagiarism.

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