TEST YOUR TOPIC for research viability
Use APPROPRIATE DATABASES
Brainstorm major KEYWORDS/CONCEPTS associated with your topic. Write them down.
Find any important SYNONYMS for these terms – use encyclopedias, thesauri, test searches
Use discipline-specific ENCYCLOPEDIAS to help you understand terms and concepts better
CONSTRUCT AN ADVANCED SEARCH with your terms, synonyms, Boolean operators, truncation, field searching, etc.
Look through the titles and subject headings of the first screen or two of results for indications of ways you need to REVISE YOUR SEARCH – unwanted results (NOT operator), results too narrow (OR operator with synonyms, truncation), results too broad (field searching, add another concept, narrow by date, language, peer review). Revise search as needed.
Skim titles and subject headings of results again. For any article that looks like it might be relevant READ THE ABSTRACT before you do anything else with the article. If it’s a newspaper article, read the lead paragraph. If it’s a book, use the table of contents and index to home in on the most relevant sections.
Plan to find more sources than you end up citing. Use only the BEST, MOST RELEVANT SOURCES you find.
Understand what each source is (newspaper article, scholarly journal article, book chapter, something else) and EVALUATE them for authority and bias.
Use the LIST OF REFERENCES in your good sources to find other sources that they have cited. Follow CITATION TRAILS FORWARD (Web of Science, Google Scholar) as well to find what has cited these sources more recently.
USE WEBSITES JUDICIOUSLY. Understand who the author of the information is and assess why should trust them, or not.
USE GOOGLE JUDICIOUSLY. Remember that it isn’t a public service, and that its search and ranking algorithms strengthen the current hegemony.