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SJND Miller Library: How do I begin my research?


Choose a topic! 

Are you actually interested in your topic? No?
Then don't choose that one. Duh! Choose a topic that means something to you, you have experience with, or you can personally relate to.


Identify keywords. 



Choose a research database.
(Locate a subject guide from the "Subject Guides" tab on the Library's homepage to access relevant databases.)

Why can't I just use Google and Wikipedia?

Two reasons:

  1. Top Google search results are based on an algorithm. Simplified, the more links from one site to another, the higher it is ranked in the search results. While Google gives us easy access to a variety of sources that are popular and seemingly relevant, high school and college level research requires students to go a step further.
    • Take a look at Million Short to see what you're missing when you use a Google web search.
  1. Wikipedia is an open source project, which means anyone can edit what is written. Do not cite Wikipedia in your final product. Take a look at the References and External Links at the bottom of the page. Use these resources to continue your research.

What is the difference between a web search and a database search?

What is the difference between a scholarly journal and a popular magazine?

What is the difference between scholarly, popular, and other sources?




Narrow your topic.
Now it is time to put all of the background information you've gathered together to give you a solid foundation to research articles with. You may find the following table to be a helpful way to organize your data. Keep in mind that this is NOT your thesis statement, just a tool to narrow your research. If you can fill out this table, you most likely have a narrow enough topic with enough direction to perform some great research.
1)  I am researching _____________ (topic)
2)  because I want to fin___________(issue/question)
3)  in order to ___________ (application - So What? - Project/Audience/Purpose driven)
Adapted from:  Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G. & Williams, J. M. (2008). The Craft of Research(3rd ed.) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, p. 51-65.

Need help narrowing your topic? Watch the online tutorial.