Selecting a research topic is much like deciding on a travel destination. Once you have narrowed your ideas to an interesting subject, write down a brief statement about this topic. For example: "Rock groups of the 60s, their popularity and major influence on the music industry." Once the topic is selected, write down specific questions that you'll want to answer. The research process will drive your destination. Your original topic may develop into something entirely different. You may choose to follow an alternate path and go down a different road.
After determining the topic, you can map out your route. You must identify the types of sources that will provide the information needed, then determine where to find these sources. Types of sources that should be considered include books, periodicals, the Internet and other libraries (interlibrary loan).
The key to finding books is the online library catalog called Summon. Search in Summon by selecting a keyword that best describes your topic. You can also search the Classic Catalog by title, author, subject or keyword. In addition to books, the catalog allows you to search for periodicals, government documents, audiovisual material, and Special Collections.
If you get lost during your sight-seeing trip, stop and ask directions. The following reference sources will be most useful to acquire quick answers to any questions you may have.
Begin with Encyclopedias, then to get off the main drag, use Subject Encyclopedias.
What does it mean? Use a Dictionary.
How much, how many? Find Statistical Information.
Who? Find Biographical Information.
How can I get in touch? Use a Directory.
Where do I go from here? Bibliographies.
Periodicals include newspapers, magazines, and journals. They are published regularly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly. Journals are periodicals containing articles written by experts in a particular field of study. If the researcher wrote the article, is it a primary source. If reporters write the article, such as in popular magazines, it is a secondary source. Typically, journal articles contain extensive bibliographies that lead to additional sources.