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Information Literacy: Inquire


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.


Begin your search!

Gather background information first to help you better understand the context of your topic. Start with SweetSearch and the online databases.
Did you find a great resource? If so, use keywords from that particular resource and reference the bibliography to further your research!


Develop and refine your research question and then research some more!

The more you research, the more your research question will evolve and that is a good thing!

What makes a great RQ? 

  • Starts with “should”, “will”, or “does” or is concise enough to begin with "how" or "what"
  • Arguable and open-ended (Can it simply be answered with a “yes” or “no”?)
  • A true research question (Do you already have an idea of the answer?)
  • Requires a judgment or evaluation to be made (not just description)
  • Is researchable (Is it possible to find credible and relevant sources?)
  • Involves genuine points of ongoing debate 
  • Invites engagement with alternative perspectives
  • Is simple and does not contain multiple, nested questions
  • Is not too vague or too broad (Can you write a logical, well-researched argument in 4-5 pages? Can you present a solid solution in 8-10 minutes?)
  • Do you use specific terms? (Do some words need more defining?)


Identify keywords. 



Narrow your topic.

Now it's 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 learn more about ___________(specific issue or question)
3)  in order to ___________ (purpose/audience - So what? Who cares?)
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.


Choose a library resource from the Homepage.

  • Databases
  • Books
  • News
  • Online Resources
  • Subject Guides

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?


The SJND Miller Library's mission is to provide you with diverse resources to meet your information needs and curiosities; empower you to take initiative in furthering the depth and breadth of your education; teach you how to locate, access, evaluate, use, and properly cite information sources; and help you become a compassionate, discerning, and self-directed lifelong learner.