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Research Guide

Research needs and requirements vary with each assignment, project, or paper. There is no "right" way to conduct research but some methods and skills can make your research efforts more efficient and effective.

If you have questions or can't find what you need, Ask a Librarian or check out our research guides.

Choose and Develop Your Topic

Suggestions to find a topic

  • Discuss your ideas with your course instructor.
  • Discuss your ideas with a reference librarian.
  • Look over the index and the article titles in a specialized encyclopedia that covers a relevant subject area or discipline.

Identify Your Topic

State your topic idea as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about Title IX (Title Nine) and women athletes in college athletic programs, you might pose the question, "How did Title IX impact women athletes in college athletic programs?"

Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question. These are potential search terms. In this case they are "title ix," "women," "athletes," and "college athletic programs".

Test Your Topic

Before you commit to a research topic:

  • Make sure your topic isn't completely covered in another paper
  • ensure there is enough information available to complete the project.

This can be particularly important if you are planning on using data in your research. If in doubt, ask your professor.

If you are finding too much information and too many sources, narrow your topic. For example: "women and athletes and college and athletics".Finding too little information may indicate that you need to broaden your topic by using a more general term or terms in your search.

Finding Books, Articles, and Other Materials

Searchbox Tips

Keyword Search is "default" search. Keywords and terms describe the subject or topic you are researching. It is usually less precise but so the results are broad. It is useful when the information you want is flexible or is a new topic to you.

Subject Search looks for words in the Subject field. Subject searching is a good strategy for topics that are well-defined, and have a lot written about them.

More Search Tips

  • Omit all punctuation marks.
  • Access more specific search options through Advanced search. (ex. to combine fields: Title + Author).
  • Avoid the Back and Forward browser buttons

Print books, DVDs, CDs, Audiobooks

From the search box on the Library homepage find exactly what you are looking for. 

Check the result record for...

  • The number of copies available
  • Call Number.

Online Books, Articles, Journals, Newspapers, Images, Video

From the "E-resources" search box on the Library homepage to search for most available resources. 

The results list could have more than one million hits. To find the right result use the "limiters" on the left side

  • Full Text
  • Peer Review
  • Source Types
  • Year Published

Databases

Databases have information, specialized products, and services that are unavailable by using the two searchboxes described above. To see what is available navigate to resources>>databases>>all.

Not sure what database is best for your research? Visit the research guide for your school or your Subject Librarian

What if NU Library doesn't have what you need?

Cite Your Sources

The Citation Styles and Tools page can help you cite the information in your assignments and projects. 

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