BIOL 102: Library Research Process
- Define your topic and form your research question(s)
The goal of library research is to use published sources to see what has already been studied about a question.
Start by defining your information need. You can phrase it as a question: "Does x happen because of y?", or "What are the effects of y on x?"
- Read background information and list ‘keywords'
Read secondary sources, such as encyclopedias, books, review articles, or magazine articles get a better feel for the topic and to identify keywords you can use to search databases.
Use subject-specific dictionaries to define unfamiliar words.
In putting together a list of keywords to use in your search consider alternative terms:
- synonyms (e.g. sugar maple, Acer saccharum; shape or geometry )
- spelling variations (e.g. behaviour, behavior)
- alternative endings of a root word (e.g. synth esis , synth eses , synth etic )
- acronyms (e.g. ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, EDTA)
Once you have learned a bit more about your topic, you may decide to revise your research question.
- Find specific information relating to your study
Next search for primary sources such as journal articles that confirm, contradict, or generally relate to your hypothesis. Finding articles is a two-step process:
To find articles on a topic search an Article Index or Database using combinations of keywords that describe your topic. Databases usually cover journals in a particular field. For example, BIOSIS Previews covers biology literature published in 1926 - present.
Use Subject Guides, Course Guides or the Article Indexes & Databases list to choose relevant databases.
Once you have a list of references to articles, you need to find the articles themselves. To do this you need to determine whether Queen's has print copies of the particular journals, or has online access (see Finding Primary Sources). There are many journals to which we do not subscribe.
- Evaluate what you've found and refine, if need be.
Last Updated: 05 October 2011