It might seem that understanding different types of information sources isn't very important, after all it's the information itself that we are interested in. However, having even a very basic map in your mind of the different types of sources will make the process of searching for information and evaluating information much more effective and efficient.
This guide begins with a basic overview of information sources, then continues with more specialized guidance on academic sources of information that you as students will want to be familiar with as you progress through your college career.
Learn about the differences between primary and secondary sources, and how they can be used in your research.
Video by Harness Library of Vermont Tech and the Community College of Vermont.
When we think of doing research, searching for information is what we usually think of first. But searching for information on its own isn't research, it is the search for information within the context of the larger process that makes it part of research.
There are a few ways to approach your information search that will help make it more efficient and more interesting to you:
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations followed by a descriptive summary and evaluation. Sometimes the annotation will reflect the applicability of the source to the needs of the researcher. The purpose of this type of bibliography is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.
Gurko, Leo. Ernest Hemingway and the Pursuit of Heroism. New York: Crowell, 1968. This book is part of a series called "Twentieth Century American Writers": a Brief Introduction to the Man and his Work. After fifty pages of straight biography, Gurko discussed Hemingway's writing, novel by novel. There's an index and a short bibliography, but no notes. The biographical part is clear and easy to read, but it sounds too much like a summary.
Example borrowed from the Writing Center at UNC- Chapel Hill.
Research is a complex process that involves wondering, asking questions, formulating ideas, exploring the ideas of other writers and scholars that have come before you, and incorporating those ideas into your own writing. This process is different each time you do it, but it does usually involve some of the same key activities. We hope this guide can provide some guidance to you in those activities. Click on any tab that matches the help you need, or use the "Search this Guide" box in the upper right corner to jump to the research topic you need help with. Remember that your instructor and your librarians are also great sources of help in your own process of doing research.
Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment and its requirements. Consider the following:
When in doubt, consult with your instructor.
Can’t think of a topic to research?
Before you can begin searching for information in a print or online resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be easily be found by scanning:
If you are still struggling, then try these suggestions:
Once you have identified some key terminology, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research serves many purposes.
If you are finding too much information, your topic may be too broad. Consider narrowing it by:
Smaller piece of the topic:
Broad Topic: Global warming
Narrower Topic: How will climate change impact sea levels and the coastal United States?
If you are not finding enough information, your topic may be too narrow. Consider broadening it by:
Narrow Topic: Does cartoon viewing cause violent behaviors in children under the age of five?
Broader Topic: What are the negative effects of television viewing on children and adolescents?
Research typically involves using a variety of sources including:
To create the most effective and efficient searches, utilize the search strategies listed under Step 2: Locate Information.
Videos can be useful resources in your research. Besides giving visual components or explanations to your research topic, they also can give a very different perspective from written sources.
There are many different online sources for informational videos:
As a student, you need to be aware that copyright laws still apply to you, especially when using images in presentations or other projects you create for a course assignment. The following are great sources for images licensed for copying and reusing.
Off-campus access to the article databases requires your k number and Eaglenet password.
Article databases provide you with 24-7 access to magazine, journal and newspaper articles via the Internet. To help you identify the most appropriate database for your topic/subject:
If you come across an article or book you need for your research, and the Library does not provide full-text access to it in print or electronic format, request it through our Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. ILL requests can take anywhere from a day to over a week to receive. This is a free service for Kirkwood students and employees.
Sometimes it's hard to know where to start your research. Here are some tips to get you started.
Tip 1: "Where does this kind of information come from?"
Before starting your research, it's good to ask yourself "Who would I expect to know this information? Who do I expect to be an authority on this subject?" Even if you don't know much about your topic yet, you probably DO know who you would trust for reliable information. Those trustworthy sources will be gathered in logical places-- for example, the latest mental health research might be found in the PsycARTICLES® database. You also probably know who ISN'T a trustworthy source. You wouldn't look on ask.com for expert mental health research, would you?
Tip 2: Ask someone.
Talk to your classmates, your instructor, your friends, heck, even those nerdy librarians (that's what we're here for!) Even if the person can't give you the answers you need, sometimes just the act of verbalizing your ideas will inspire you.
Tip 3: Let the computer do your work.
Try this: start typing your keyword into EBSCO or Google. See the suggestions that pop up as you type? Use those to explore your topic.
Tip 4: Don't be afraid to rethink your topic.
If, despite your best efforts, you aren't able to find the kind of information you want, try going back to your concept diagram and choosing a diiferent a slightly different path. Or, explore your "keywords" a little more- maybe something with spark!
Boolean searching is the traditional way to search for information in most online databases and on the Internet. You've probably used it already without even realizing it--connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT, are used to create search phrases.
business AND ethics
|Retrieves records that contain ALL of the search terms.|
hotels OR motels
|Retrieves records that contain ANY of the search terms, but does not necessarily include all of them.|
java NOT coffee
|Excludes records containing the second search term.|
The world of information is changing and expanding every moment. Some changes, like having more and more books and academic research available for searching online, are very helpful to student researchers. Other changes, like having more and more false or misleading information pouring into popular media channels, can make your work more difficult and time-consuming. Because of this over-abundance of poor or false information, we need to equip ourselves with some basic, solid tools for evaluating information, that we can apply in any situation. Because evaluating information sources isn't a single step of the research process, it's actually something you do all the time, from the moment you begin your project until you do your final check. The resources on this guide will provide you with some tools to more effectively evaluate different types of information you may encounter.
Does something you read seem a liitle "off"? Try these websites to check the information:
When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the C.R.A.A.P. test.
Courtesy of the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico
Kirkwood students, faculty, and staff have access to over 150,000 eBook titles through EBSCOhost's eBooks and Project MUSE.
EBSCOhost eBooks gives you several different options for viewing an eBook. Select the method below that works the best for your needs.
The best research is driven by curiosity, because curiosity makes you ask questions. So a good approach to finding a research topic is to locate your own curiosity among the possible topic ideas, whether assigned by your instructor, or imagined by you.
If you are stumped and can think of nothing to research, try one of these strategies:
How can you know if a question you come up with is a good research question? Here are some questions to ask yourself about your question! :)
What if you have a good question but it's too big for the size of your research paper assignment? These are some quick ways you can narrow down your question to something more appropriate:
Sometimes it's difficult getting to a question when all you have is a topic idea. Here are some great tips on question-making:
Most content was adapted from or inspired by Bruce Ballenger's "The Curious Researcher"
Another option available to Kirkwood students, faculty, and staff, is to schedule a research consultation at a time that's convenient for you.
Just fill out one of these forms based on about how long of a consultation you think you will need. There's also a spot to enter your phone number so you can get a reminder text before your appointment.