The research process usually involves five broad steps. These steps are directly related to the skills of an information literate individual. Information literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.
Often you will complete one step before moving to the next, but there may be times when you will need to return to a previous step or complete multiple steps simultaneously.
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.