Think of specific words that will describe your topic ideas and start typing them into the Union College Libraries Catalog or one of the Union College Libraries databases. Select a database by subject from the drop-down menu. In the catalog, try to be a bit more basic in your search terms, where as in the databases, you can use a more narrowed focus with specific keywords and phrases. When using phrases, place quotation marks around your terms, so they are searchable as a phrase rather than individual words.
See which search terms work and which don’t. In the articles that are relevant to your topic, find the Subject Terms. These are terms the database recognizes and uses to find more articles with the same topic. Ask a Librarian for help with search strategies like subject terms or which database is the best for your topic.
If you find a book, look at the table of contents or the back index, to see if it has some information about your topic specifics. If you retrieve a list of database articles, find the article abstract and read it. It’ll give you a good idea of the article’s contents so you can make an informed decision to include it (or not) with the other articles you’ve collected. It will also give you new ideas and keywords to search.
Try to select more than just the required amount of articles because you’re going to be eliminating some of your sources later. Make sure you take down the information such as what database it came from, what book, what Web site, etc., so you won’t have to go back to do it later when constructing your citations.
Starting Your Research
This is when you read beyond the abstracts of the articles. If none of the articles contain the information you’re seeking, the terms may not have been a perfect fit. That’s okay. Go back into the databases and try again. Use some of the new search terms and keywords you’ve found in your reading and in the article Subject Terms.
Quote, paraphrase, or outline important ideas from the materials that you have read. Be sure to cite your sources and give proper credit to those who have helped develop the ideas that you are using. Jot down the author, title, publisher, date of publication, and page number of all sources that you use. It is a good idea that you do this as you proceed, rather than waiting and coming back to a source. This will save you from having to find a passage a second time and it will help you keep track of what belongs to the author and what belongs to you. And it means you won’t have to go back later to try and find this information
Creating an Outline
Try outlining your ideas. Outlining is a way to organize your information into a series of well-ordered and understandable thoughts. What ideas are your main points and what ideas are supporting information. You may also find gaps in your ideas and reasoning. Use the outline to give yourself a better idea of what structure your paper is going to take. It will create a map for where information should be placed; how the placement of the information will create a flow of ideas.
Examples of Outlines from Austin Community College