This Guide will help you use the library to find the sources you'll need for your English Composition papers.
If you need help with your particular research task or would like some advice about how to conduct your research, use any of the options to the right. There is also a link to our online service and to Librarians who regularly work with first-year composition classes and students.
Instructors, please visit our First Year Composition Instructor's Guide for more information regarding instruction support for your classes!
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR TOPIC
SUMMARY: Brainstorm topic ideas using the internet and library resources, then state your topic as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about self esteem in teenagers, you might pose the question, "What effect does use of Instagram have on self esteem of High School students?"
STEP 2: DEVELOP YOUR RESEARCH QUESTION
SUMMARY: Watch videos, read articles, and explore more information around the topic that you chose. Take notes on what you find most interesting and engaging about your topic. Ask yourself the 5 W's: who, what, where, when, and why. Use the answers to these questions to formulate an open ended research question.
STEP 3: FIND BACKGROUND INFORMATION
SUMMARY: Learn more about your topic by reading articles in encyclopedias. Note any interesting topics or information in the bibliographies at the end of the encyclopedia articles and keep a research notebook on the related topics and key words you find. Use this new information to identify the main concepts or keywords in your question.
STEP 4: DEVELOP A SEARCH STRATEGY TO FIND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Nearly everyone is aware of and uses Google and its other services, Google Scholar, Google Books, Google News, YouTube, etc., to search and find information on the open Internet, but there are special tips and tricks to easily searching for good information. Searching in the library databases and catalog using keywords, limiters, and boolean phrases will yield higher quality scholarly resources for your paper.
STEP 5: USE THE LIBRARY TO RESEARCH ARTICLES AND INFORMATION
SUMMARY: Use guided keyword searching to find materials on your topic. Copy the article permalink/URL or write down the citation (author, title,etc.) and the location information (call number and library) if you find a physical book on your topic. When you pull the book from the shelf, look at the bibliography for additional sources.
STEP 6: EVALUATE WHAT YOU FIND
SUMMARY: See Know Your Sources, Is It Scholarly?, and How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps handouts for suggestions on evaluating the quality of the books, articles, and online sources you located.
Watch on YouTube: How to find citations and references and The Problem with Fake News
If you have found too many or too few sources, you may need to narrow or broaden your topic. If you get stuck, ask a librarian for help.
STEP 7: CITE WHAT YOU FIND
Give credit where credit is due; cite your sources.
Citing or documenting the sources used in your research serves two purposes, it gives proper credit to the authors of the materials used, and it allows those who are reading your work to duplicate your research and locate the sources that you have listed as references. When other authors cite their sources properly, you can also use their research to help you with your own!
Knowingly representing the work of others as your own is plagiarism. Use the "plagiarism" tab in this guide to help you properly cite and avoid plagiarizing another persons work.