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    Where Do I Start?

    Knowing what to do first when starting a research project can be confusing! This page will walk you through getting started on your research. 

    The Research Process

    Research is a process by which we explore, investigate, and gather information to either find new discoveries or analyze existing ideas. It is a process of systematic inquiry where we ask questions and seek to find the answers to those queries. 

    Research most often includes the following steps:

    • Identifying the need for information
    • Creating a research question, query, or area for exploration
    • Determining the type and amount of information needed
    • Conducting or creating searches for information 
    • Evaluating and assessing the found information
    • Using existing information and creating new information to fulfill a purpose
    • Citing existing information
    • Creating new material or information
    • Sharing your created material

    Research is not a straightforward, linear process. It evolves, changes, backtracks, and jumps forward the more you work on your identified question or query. In fact, research looks more like a squiggly, jumbled piece of string than a straightforward or progressing line.

    Every person develops their own way to research. Your research workflow will look different from your classmates. And that's okay! The more you conduct research, the more comfortable you will be.

    Background Research

    Background information provides you with the important context of an idea or topic that helps you better understand your area of research. At its core, background information is what you need to know about a subject before you can research a specific question or argue a specific point.

    There are numerous places to find background information. Where you look depends on what you need to learn and research. Some places to start include:

    • Read material available in Reference Sources like:
    • Handbooks - provides information, facts, and figures related to certain industries or topics.
    • Encyclopedias - provides summaries and "big picture" looks at people, places, things, and events.
    • Dictionaries - provides information explaining topics in specific subject areas.
    • Atlases - provides maps, facts, figures, and data relevant to geographic areas and demographic topics.
    • Wikipedia! It's okay to start background reading here.
    • Your course textbook.

    Also, background information can include your own personal and community experience. As a student, you have likely encountered many situations and learning opportunities that have informed your understanding and opinions on various subjects. While these are not "academic" sources, your experience matters and can help you understand all sides of a topic.

    The links below take you to our recommended library databases that can help you start your background research.

    • Credo Reference - Credo is a vast, online reference library, providing access to the full text of hundreds of highly regarded and popular titles. Credo Reference contains dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopaedias, quotations and atlases, plus a wide range of subject-specific titles.
    • Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition - Britannica Academic delivers fast and easy access to high-quality, comprehensive information. The rich combination of the venerable Encyclopædia Britannica plus Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, magazines and periodicals, and many other research tools provides the variety of reliable sources that students need to consult when conducting thorough collegiate research—all from one resource.
    • Salem Reference - Reference books in the areas of health, history, literature, and science.
    • World Factbook - The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 world entities. The Reference tab includes: maps of the major world regions, as well as Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World, a Political Map of the World, and a Standard Time Zones of the World map.

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