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Research Quick Tips: The Undergraduate's Guide to Research

Guide Information   
Last Updated:    Feb 5, 2015   
Guide URL:   
Description:   An introduction to college-level research   
Tags:   assignment help, critical thinking skills, first year students, information literacy, lifelong learning, research assignment, research skills, undergraduates   
RSS:   Subscribe to Updates via RSS   

Guide Index
Start Here
Services and Resources
1. Develop Your Topic
2. Search Strategies
3. Find Credible Sources
4. Evaluate Your Sources

Start Here

Beginning Your Research

Research is inquiry. Research is scholarly conversation. Research is exploration. And research is a process. Learning how to find and use credible and accurate information is a skill that you will use over and over in many different classes and is a skill that is valued by employers. 

Step 1. Develop Your Topic   Developing a good research question can sometimes be the most difficult part of the research process. Watch Developing a Research Topic.

Step 2. Search Strategies  What is a search term? Brainstorm for ideas. Watch Generating Search Terms.

Step 3. Find Credible Sources  Learn why library research databases are your best choice for college level research. Watch What Is a Library Database?

Step 4. Evaluate Your Sources  How can you tell if a source is reliable and appropriate for your assignment? Watch Evaluating Internet Sources.

Additional Resources

Need more specific information? Please consult the resources appropriate for you.

Services and Resources


1. Develop Your Topic

Find Background Info Here!

Research topics are often formed from a vague or general idea. Background information is used for defining terminology, providing historical background or context, and for enlarging your initial idea.

It is helpful to have some background information on you topic before you begin to look for scholarly books or articles.

Develop a Research Topic

Once you have selected an initial topic, the next step is to develop research questions. To begin:

  • Write down what you already know or don't know about the topic.
  • Using the information you wrote down, develop questions you'd like to answer when doing your research.
    • Use probing questions such as why? how? what if? should?
    • Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no.

See the short video below for more tips, or check out this PDF Guide for Developing a Research Topic.

2. Search Strategies

Identifying Keywords

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 found easily by scanning:

If you are still struggling, then try these suggestions:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms.
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe the picture.
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend.
Generating Search Terms

Video used with permission from Cooperative Library Instruction Project under Creative Commons license cc-by-nc-sa.

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3. Find Credible Sources

What Is a Library Database?

... and how can it help you with your research?
Video used with permission from Cooperative Library Instruction Project under Creative Commons license cc-by-nc-sa.

No Flash plugin installed.

Find Books Here

Listed below are only a few of the thousands of subjects you can explore in InfoKat.

College sports
Group identity
Human trafficking
Immigrants - United States - Social conditions
Natural foods
Stem cells - research

You can search all the materials in the UK Library System using InfoKat. Type the name of a book, author, or a subject below and it will show you what we own.

Go to Advanced Search

Find Scholarly Articles Here

Sample search terms for databases

globalization and clothing industry
universities and basketball arenas
crowdsourcing and business
Sierra Leone and child soldiers

Academic Search Complete
Limit Your Results
Get Text UK

Get Text UK provides shortcut links from library databases to full-text articles in electronic journals. 

Clicking on the UK SFX logo button opens a menu of options.  

Sometimes the database does not have the issue you need. Reasons may vary. In that case, make your request via Interlibrary Loan.

Read the full Get Text UK FAQ here. If you need more help, please Ask Us

4. Evaluate Your Sources

Evaluate Your Sources

Knowing how to find relevant, reliable, and accurate, information can help you create better research assignments. These same skills will help you make informed decisions about real world questions such as buying a car, evaluating financial aid options or deciding which graduate school is best for you.
Use the criteria below to help you evaluate the information you find. 

*Authority: The source of the information.
Who is the author?  Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
What makes this person knowledgeable on this topic?
What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?

*Purpose: The reason the information exists.
There should be no broad generalizations that are not supported by evidence.
The purpose, intent and audience should be clearly stated.
Are arguments supported by facts? Are other viewpoints recognized?

urrency: The timeliness of the information.
When was the information published?
Has the information been revised or updated?

*Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
Is the information supported by evidence?
Are sources documented with footnotes or bibliography?
Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
Can you find some of the same information given elsewhere?

*Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
Is there information in the source that is strongly related to your topic?
Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?

Adapted from  Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP Test, Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.

Evaluating Internet Sources

Video used with permission from Cooperative Library Instruction Project under Creative Commons license cc-by-nc-sa.

No Flash plugin installed.

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