Welcome! The purpose of this guide is to give Basic Reporting students information on using the Internet and the library's online databases to locate (or verify) information. Use the tabs at the top of the page to navigate to the other pages within the guide.
Before you begin doing research on a topic, it is good to do a little background reading to identify the key concepts, people, terms, etc. associated with the topic. A good place to do this background reading is in an encyclopedia or other reference book. While most professors don't let students use encyclopedias as sources in papers, using them to familiarize yourself with the topic can speed up your search process.
The following databases may provide you with some background information on your topic:
With so many sources of potential information, it can be really hard to know where to start. Use the handout below to get a better understanding of the differences between searching the Internet and the library's online databases.
10. Don’t wait till the last moment to start your research!
Research is a long and involved process. If we don’t have something you need, we can probably get it for you elsewhere, but not instantly - so plan accordingly. See Interlibrary Loan for more information.
9. Research is a word game.
Try various techniques to improve the accuracy of your searches: use AND and OR to combine groups of search terms, truncation (wild card searching), phrase searching, search limiters, etc. Use the Search Strategy Builder developed by the University of Arizona Library to help construct good searches.
8. Google/Google Scholar doesn’t have everything.
Hard to imagine, but Google only provides access to a fraction of 1% of what’s “out there” on the web. Learn to use other tools to find information that’s “invisible” to Google.
7. Use Advanced Search features.
Many databases include “Advanced Searching.” By using it, you can quickly and easily improve the accuracy of your searches—and have fewer but higher quality search results.
6. A lot of things aren’t online at all.
Collier Library alone—to say nothing of other libraries in Alabama and elsewhere—has thousands of books, articles, documents, videos, etc. that aren’t online. Anywhere. Visit us; we’ll help you find ‘em.
5. Use Wikipedia—and other encyclopedias—carefully.
Encyclopedias can be great places to get beginning background info, and for references to major books, articles, etc. on a topic. But they’re usually not something you can use as one of your sources for a paper or other project.
4. Evaluate! Evaluate! Evaluate!
Don’t believe everything you read. Or see. Or hear. It’s up to you to determine if the information you are using is reliable or not. Librarians can help with this, too!
3. Research is not a straight line.
It's a process, a spiral, an evolution. One piece of new information can take you back to places you've already been. You may need to change course, even reverse direction from time to time.
2. Find more sources than you think you’ll need.
Some sources that you’ll find just won’t work for your research needs. But, if you collect “extra” sources at the beginning, you probably won’t have to backtrack and re-do your searches later.
1. Ask a Librarian!
Don’t let the frustration level build up too much before you ask for help: In person (at the Reference Desk). Phone (256-765-4469). Text (256-373-5235), Online. or Make an appointment.