How do I research effectively?


Choosing a Topic

The first step, is to choose a general topic that you want to examine in your research assignment. This should be something that you find interesting. It is very hard to conduct research if you are researching something you think is boring! Talk to your professor if you'd like to try another topic. Most professors are OK with this as long as the topic connects with the original assignment in some way.


Preliminary Research

In this stage, you have a general topic and you'll want to discover some general knowledge about this topic before you specify the topic. In this stage you can go to the internet or a database, but you don't need to read deeply into any articles or books. Just get a sense of the information immediately available about the topic, so you can get an idea of how you want to specify the topic. 


Research Databases

Now that you have a general topic, you are almost ready to begin your research. First, you should know that most professors prefer you find articles, news, or web pages on a research database rather than Google, Bing, or another internet search engine. When using an internet search engine, the results you find are broad and though the result may be popular, that does not mean it is credible. Searching on research databases ensures that you are finding credible sources that you can use for your assignments. Thus, always use research databases unless your professor explicitly tells you otherwise. 

Below are a list of some databases. Your professor will let you know if they prefer a specific database. Several databases are specific to certain topics. Most databases are fully available through your school credentials. Some are not. Talk to your professor for more details. Galileo is a very popular database free to all Georgians through school credentials or public libraries. 

NOTE: This list is not exhaustive. 


Google Scholar:




Searching Databases: 

Before you start searching, make sure you have a specific topic in mind. Most assignments will require being as specific as possible. If your topic is too broad, then writing the assignment will be difficult because you won't know how to focus your writing towards a specific goal. For example, if the general topic is Archaeology, a specified topic would be: "Archaeological techniques in the Early 19th Century and the Discovery of Dinosaurs."

Once you have determined your topic, the next step is to begin searching. To search, select the key terms that you'll use for your preliminary search. For example, for the topic above, the key terms could be "Archaeology techniques," "Early 19th Century," and "Dinosaurs." 

Once you've selected your key terms, the next step is to search. Every database will have an advanced search option. Always choose this option for the best results. Next, put your key terms in separate boxes so that the database will search for articles that contain all three terms rather than just one. For each key term, you can designate the word as being part of title, author, or a word in the text. This is helpful if you know what you are looking for. 

You can also use the advanced search option to further filter your results. For example, you can ensure that the results you receive are current within the last 10-20 years so that you avoid outdated information. You can choose to only receive peer reviewed articles, meaning that the article has been vetted by other experts in the field and is more credible than other articles. You can also choose the specific journal or subjects you'd like to search in. Look through the options and filter your results as thoroughly as possible. 

One you hit "search" you'll receive your results. Read the titles and the abstracts (a short description) to get a sense of whether the article or other resource will be useful to your project. If you think it will be useful, remember to save it somewhere so that  you'll be able to recover it later. Many databases have a folder on their website where you can keep articles and materials that you'd like to use later. If you search and don't find anything you think will be useful, you may want to use different key term combinations or even try a different database. 

Once you have chosen the articles you'd like to use, you can begin reading or skimming through the articles to determine how they can be incorporated into your assignment. 

The number one rule is perseverance! Search until you find something. If you're having trouble finding something, there's no shame in using what you've found. It simply means that you'll  have to alter your paper from your  original ideas. 


Credible sources:

One thing to keep in mind is that your sources should be credible. One way to do this is to use a fun acronym that can help you remember what you should examine before using a source. Remember: if a source seems fishy or you're not sure if it's credible or not, toss it. You want to be confident in all your sources. 


CRAAP Acronym

Currency: This means that the source is up to date and its publication date was relatively recent. 

Relevance: This means that the source relates to your assignment, is at an appropriate academic level, and is something you'd feel comfortable putting on a works cited. 

Authority: Check up on the author, publisher, and editors of the source. Ensure that the author's credentials match what they're writing about, and that the publisher has a good track record. If there are a lot of spelling errors or if there's a clear bias, the source may not be what you want to use. 

Accuracy: Can you tell where the information comes from? Did the author cite their sources? Has the information been reviewed? Is there evidence? These are some questions to ask. If the answer is no for any of these questions, you may want to rethink the source. 

Purpose: Examine why this source was created. What was the intention of the writer? Was it simply to inform or are they trying to entertain or convince? If so, the source's credibility may be at risk. Pay attention especially to biases. 


Keep in mind that this is not the only way to check for credibility. See links for more details. 


Happy researching!

  • Last Updated Jun 18, 2024
  • Views 9
  • Answered By Timothy Connors

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