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GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES A. Basic Guide to Research This packet is designed to help you with the basic steps used in researching a topic, whatever your interest or major. You should learn these basic steps and apply them to whatever database or information system you choose, seeking help from the University Libraries as needed. 1. How To Get Started Learning what steps to take BEFORE you begin your research, specifically before you begin using a computerized database, will make the research process much easier. 2. How To Search Computerized Databases Knowing and applying a few simple concepts can mean the difference between success and frustration. 3. How To Find Information On The Web Understanding some of the realities of the Web will help you search it more effectively. 4. How To Find Books Searching the University Libraries’ Library Catalog should be your first step in locating information about your topic 5. How To Find Articles Searching online databases for articles and then locating them in the University Libraries are important skills you will need to develop for locating important sources for your assignment. 6. How To Tell If You Have Found Good Information Knowing what questions to ask about a source you found is an important step in judging whether the information is appropriate for your assignment. 7. Glossary Learning some common research and library terms will help to demystify the process.
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HOW TO GET STARTED The ability to express your topic in a researchable way is the first step in developing a successful search strategy. Simply stating, “I need information about global warming for an English paper” is not enough; it’s like going to the doctor and saying, “OUCH! It hurts.” But where does it hurt? How long has it been hurting? Just as important as your topic are what types of sources you use, how much information you need, and when the project is due. Write out the answers to the following questions as a way to start expressing your information need. Grammar is not as important right now as it is to BE SPECIFIC . What is my topic? How long is the assignment, paper, presentation, etc.? I. T IME NEEDED TO DO THE RESEARCH FOR A 5- PAGE PAPER IS DIFFERENT THAN FOR A 10- PAGE PAPER What kinds of sources may I use or NOT use for the assignment? II. T HE KINDS OF SOURCES NEEDED INDICATES THE TYPES OF DATABASES YOU WILL USE How many sources am I required to use? The length of the paper and number of sources helps to give you a picture of how much time you may need to complete the research When is the assignment due? III. T HE CLOSER YOU ARE TO YOUR DUE DATE , THE FEWER OPTIONS YOU HAVE FOR GETTING INFORMATION Here is an example that answers these questions. Notice the responses are specific.
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