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Stony Brook University


Searching for Information on Your Topic

Define and refine your topic

  • Narrow or broaden your search.
    • Determine best search terms for your topic
    • Use search strategies to improve your searches
      • Boolean Operators
      • Phrase Searching
      • Truncation/Wildcards

Formulate your research questions

  • Factual Questions - You may need to investigate some factual questions before you begin your research. Some examples: What does pH mean? What is the difference between abiotic and biotic factors?
  • Research Questions - What do you want to know about your topic? Is your question researchable and answerable?

Identify Library Resources

  • What databases, catalogs, or other information sources should you use?
  • What types of information do you need?
    • Primary Sources
      • Created during the the original research or during the time under study. First-hand, contemporary, direct evidence or data
      • Examples: peer-reviewed articles, conference proceedings, works of literature/art, interviews/transcripts, musical scores, autobiographies/diaries, eyewitness accounts, emails/texts/tweets/posts/podcasts, photographs
    • Secondary Sources
      • Viewpoint outside the original source, put primary sources in context
      • Examples: articles in magazines/newspapers, literary accounts, book/movie reviews, biographies, second-hand accounts, interpretations, commentaries, scholarly articles evaluating original research.
    • Tertiary Sources
      • Sources that assemble information from a variety of primary and secondary sources. General and removed from source.
      • Examples: textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, manuals, directories, guidebooks, databases.

Find Information on your topic

  • What kind of sources do you need? (ex: peer-review journal articles, background information, data)
  • Use the appropriate library resources. (ex: article databases, library online catalog, digital collections)

Cite your sources

  • Capture bibliographic information/citation.
    • Most databases and online catalogs have options to capture this information.
  • Use a citation style appropriate for your paper. (APA, MLA, other)

Search Tricks