Many article databases and our library catalog will format citations for you. Use these automatic citations to save time, but check to make sure they are complete and accurate. Here are some sites with useful information on MLA and APA Citation Styles.
Break up sentences or long phrases into separate search terms. Write down initial search term ideas. Add to this list as you search and encounter other potential search terms. Cross off terms that are not working. If you are a visual thinker, try using a method like concept mapping.
Ands, Ors, and Nots
Combine search terms with these connecting words (called Boolean Operators). Use AND to narrow a search and OR to broaden a search. Use NOT to exclude a term from your search.
Do not assume that there will be a lot of information on your topic. You may need to narrow or broaden your search to find things related to your topic. Doing early preliminary research will give you time to revise your topic if needed.
Focus on scholarly sources
Use primarily scholarly (peer-reviewed) sources. These sources are typically not freely available on the Web and cannot be found using Google. Many of the Library databases provide scholarly resources online.
Books vs. Articles
Books may be helpful for background information and for familiarizing yourself with a topic. Articles can provide more current information and typically address a narrower piece of a topic. The scope of your assignment, and your own understanding of the topic, will determine which resources are best.
Keep a search log
Keep track of which sources and search terms work best for your topic, and which ones do not.
Cite as you go
Even if you are not sure whether you will use a source, it is much easier to note the citation information up front. Not only will this mean you are ready to quickly do your bibliography, if you need the article or book again you will have all of the information you need to find it.
Subject headings are words or phrases used to describe the items in a database or library catalog. Knowing the terms used to describe information relevant to your topic can save you time.
Ask a Librarian!
If you are having trouble with any of these steps, or just need help getting started, contact your librarian!