This is the "Start Your Research" page of the "How to do Library Research" guide.
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How to do Library Research  

Step-by-step guide for gathering research.
Last Updated: Sep 3, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Start Your Research Print Page

Step 1 - Choose your Topic

The first step in the research process is choosing a topic. Your topic should be broad enough that you can find sources, but narrow enough that your paper can sufficiently cover the topic in the required number of pages. For example, a topic of "Medical Marijuana" is too broad for a 3-5 page paper, but a topic of "Medical benefits of marijuana for the chronically ill" is just about the right size.

If you need some suggestions for ways to broaden or narrow your topic, try UCLA Library's tip sheet.

If you need some inspiration for a topic, try brainstorming some ideas or you can:

  • Ask a librarian. They can help you think of search terms to try and help you broaden or narrow your topic.
  • Think of a topic related to your major or something you feel strongly about.

    Once you have chosen your topic, it is time to gather some background information about the topic.

    (For Steps 3-6, click on the remaining tabs at the top. "Find E-books and Books", "Find Articles", Find Websites" and "APA Help")

    Search Terms Help

    • Start big and broad with a General search word or phrase and then narrow it down to be more specific.
    • Adding the terms AND, NOT to your search narrows it and will give you more manageable results.
    • Adding the term OR to your search broadens it and gives you a bigger pool of results.
    • Found a good source? Use the subject terms or descriptors listed to lead you to other similar sources.
    • Stuck? Ask a Librarian!


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      Step 2 - Gather Background Information

      Before you dive into your research, you should gather some facts about your topic.

      • You can Ask a Librarian--in person, on the phone, or via email.

      Hints and Tips

      1. Start early! Have first choice of books, or have books brought from another campus.

      2.Keep a Log. Keeping good records of your searches can help you find them again later.

      3. Did you you know? You can email your searches, results lists, or whole articles from databases. Ask a librarian how!

      4. Limiting to Full Text in your database searches and you can print out the article right now!

      5. Limit to "Peer-Reviewed" or "Academic" articles if your instructor wants you to use Scholarly journal articles.



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