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Introduction to Research: Introduction


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 NURIA 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 want to learn about Title IX (Title Nine) and women athletes in college athletic programs. You might ask, "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.

If you are uncertain, especially when planning to use data in your research, do not hesitate to seek guidance from your professor. Their expertise can provide reassurance in your research process.

If you find 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

Search box tips

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

Print books, DVDs, CDs, Audiobooks, Articles, Journals

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.


The results list could have more than one million hits. To find the right result, use the "Refine my results" option on the left side of the search results list. Options include:

  • Full Text
  • Peer Review
  • Resource Types
  • Subject
  • Author
  • Year Published, and more.

Visit our Primo Quick Start Guide to learn more about Primo's navigation and features.


Databases have information, specialized data, and services that are often best discovered when searched independently. 

Primo is a good starting point if you do not know which database or directory to choose or when searching for multidisciplinary topics. For more specialized searches, we recommend our subject databases, which can be found in our A-Z list of databases.

Are you not sure which 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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