This is the first of three lessons for the "Finding Credible Sources" assignment. You will learn to:
While it is not appropriate to cite Wikipedia articles in your research project, Wikipedia can be a great place to start gathering information. Watch the short video below for tips on how best to use Wikipedia for college-level research projects. (Thanks to Michael Baird of the Cooperative Library Instruction Project for creating this video.)
Some topics are very specific, and therefore easy to search. For example, if you were researching a rare genetic disease like Mevalonate Kinase Deficiency, you could simply enter that phrase in an article database to retrieve articles on that topic. Easy!
Most research topics are more complex and to find good articles you'll need to develop a more sophisticated strategy, such as this three step approach:
1) Divide your research topic into main concepts or keywords.
2) Brainstorm for synonyms and related terms and start listing them. If it helps, consult Wikipedia, a thesaurus, or your textbook to help you find synonyms and related terms. For example, if you wanted to research the topic of Crisis counseling girls in a middle school setting you might have a list that looks like this:
|Keyword 1||Keyword 2||Keyword 3|
|Crisis Counseling||Middle School||Female|
|Emergency Psychological Care||Tween||Young woman|
3) Construct your search by connecting search terms together using AND, OR, and NOT (these are called Boolean operators). To learn more, watch the video below. (Thanks to Douglas College Library for creating this video.)
Below is an example search in an article database. This search shows how synonyms and related terms were connected by typing OR between each of them. Main concepts were connected by selecting AND from the drop down list.
Here is a shorthand version showing what this search looks like without any search boxes:
("crisis counseling" OR "crisis intervention") AND (middle school OR preteen)
Notice how not all the concepts were used, sometimes it's best to start broad and then narrow down if you have too many results. When you use AND, you are restricting your search; that is, you are forcing the database to retrieve articles that have both main concepts. When you use OR, you are expanding your search; that is, you are telling the database to retrieve any of the word or phrase variations that you've entered into the search box.
The tips below will help you become a more effective and efficient searcher:
Note that most databases have a link to a help page that will show you what search features are supported and how sophisticated you can get with your searching.
There are many ways to approach a research project, and a really smart idea is to ask for advice from a librarian. Librarians can help you find the best resources for your project and save you time. Email your librarian,Brittany Blanchard, for help: firstname.lastname@example.org.