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Info 2: Research Process

What's Your Focus?

When selecting the tools you'll use to do your research (databases etc.) and your actual materials (books, journals, etc.), ask yourself the following questions to narrow the selection of choices from the start:

  1. Is your research on a current or historical topic?
  2. Do you need information written by experts or by everyday, normal people?
  3. Do you need books? Articles from magazines or journals? Newspaper articles?

Behind Door #???

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

Show Me the Numbers

For most papers, especially if you started early with your research, you should expect to have

  1. A couple popular articles found in newspapers and magazines (because they're shorter) & several scholarly ones (because their content is more reliable)
  2. A book or two to cover the topic in depth
  3. Some other media if you can find it and if it's appropriate for your topic
  4. Some thoughtful websites to complement the broad selection of library materials

ONLY Scholarly Information!

Ever had a professor tell you that you can ONLY use scholarly sources and nothing else?

ONLY Scholarly Info
Yeah, and that stinks too 'cause I found non-scholarly stuff that was relevant.: 65 votes (47.1%)
No, I got pretty flexible professors, and they're just happy I use the library for my research instead of relying totally on the Internet.: 36 votes (26.09%)
Can't recall.: 37 votes (26.81%)
Total Votes: 138

Variety Is the Spice of Life

Various Sources

Flow of Info

Save time by looking first for research materials on your topic at the point where it begins to fit into the flow of information (see table below).

Type Time Frame Depth Access Points
radio & TV; Internet/news service seconds/minutes few paragraphs or less Google
newspapers (online) day(s) few paragraphs - 1 pg interdisciplinary database (ProQuest Newspapers, EBSCOhost)
popular magazines (online) week(s) 1-5+ pgs interdisciplinary database (ProQuest Newspapers, EBSCOhost)
academic journals (online) 6+ mos 3-30+ pgs interdisciplinary database  (EBSCOhost)
online reference sources (encyclopedias, statistics) 6 mos - 1 yr 1-3+ pgs; overview & background info Gale Virtual, Brittanica Online
books 1+ yr(s) up to 100 pgs (in depth); extensive EBSCOhost eBooks, library catalog
print reference sources (e.g. encyclopedias) avg 10 yrs 1-3+ pgs; overviews & background info library catalog


Example 1:  Event--New driver's license law passed in California.

This is a current issue, so time is the relevant factor in selecting research tools for this topic.

Example 2:  Viewpoints--Anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Some types of sources may provide more in-depth and/or scholarly, peer-reviewed coverage than others, so the type of source is the relevant factor for this topic.