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Research with Library Resources (Intro to Research)

How do I start?

poe the panther librarian profile picNow that you've completed Steps 2, 3, 4 and 5, you're ready to start researching!

But how should you actually start?

First, get a good background. Find out what your topic is about and get some overview information. Wikipedia may be a good option for that.

Wait, did I just say Wikipedia??!? Yes, I did! Wikipedia is a great place to get a general understanding of a topic. While it may not always be reliable since anyone can edit it, it generally provides good overviews. However, you shouldn't believe anything you read there without verifying it from a more credible source (more on credible sources in the Step 3 "Finding and Evaluating Scholary Sources" step). Wikipedia often has a list of references at the bottom of its articles- this can be a good source of credible information. And you should never cite Wikipedia as a source for a paper unless your professor explicitly says you should.

You can also get background information from the library database Opposing Viewpoints. This database is covered breifly in Step 2, and you can also find a video on how to use Opposing Viewpoints here:

Continue your research

research cycle iconAs you continue finding information, keep in mind that research is a cycle- first you SEARCH, then you REad, then you search again... RESEARCH!

As you use the library databases, you'll find that some keywords work better than others. Be sure to keep an eye out for additional keywords that you may not have originally thought of. For example, you might start by searching in the databases with the word "education", but maybe a better keyword would be "school work" or "college", depending on your topic. Be flexible and use lots of different words!

Also try searching in multiple databases. After searching Academic Search Complete, try another database- it will give you different articles and different perspectives. JSTOR is great for history, art, or literature; Communication and Mass Media Complete is great for communications or research on various kinds of media; and ERIC is recommended for articles on education and students; and PsycArticles is a great database with articles on psychology and human behavior. We have many more databases on other subjects as well- check out our full list of databases.

What about books?

book iconBooks are a great resource for your assignments and research! Why?

  • Books contain a lot of information. They provide overviews, background information, and also detailed information on specific issues in that subject.
  • Books are often well-edited and more credible than websites and newspaper/magazine articles.

But they're so... LONG! No one has time to read a whole book for just one source in a paper!

Don't worry, you don't have to read the entire book in order to cite it in your paper! Skim the book's contents for information relevant to your research by looking at the table of contents or chapter titles. If you are using the library's eBooks, you can also search within the book to find where your keywords appear in the text to find the most relevant sections.

Primary vs Secondary sources

Primary sources are first-hand evidence related to the time or event you are investigating. This includes accounts by participants or observers and a wide range of written, physical, audio or visual materials created at the time or later by someone with direct experience.

In the sciences and social sciences, primary sources or 'primary research' are original research experiments, studies, or observations written about by the researchers themselves.

What is a Secondary Source?

If a primary source is direct first-hand evidence, then a secondary source is second-hand commentary including anything that investigates, comments on, brings together, or reviews those primary sources and other secondary sources.

Discipline Primary Source Examples Secondary Source Examples
  • Letters
  • Photographs
  • Diaries
  • History books
  • Journal Articles
  • Documentaries
Art & Literature
  • Novels
  • Paintings
  • Poems
  • Art criticism article
  • Literature criticism article
  • Art history textbook
Communications & Journalism
  • Speeches
  • Investigative Journalism
  • Newspapers & magazines
  • Journal articles on communication theories
  • Book on Journalism practices
  • Public speaking manual
Political Science
  • Laws
  • Court documents
  • Public opinion surveys
  • Article by a legal scholar
  • American government textbook
  • Encyclopedia of political theory
Science & Social Science
  • Research studies
  • Lab tests
  • Mental Health surveys
  • Reviews of other studies
  • Systematic reviews
  • Textbooks

Portions of this information was adapted from "Primary and secondary sources"

Librarians to the rescue!

librariansThere's a team of research experts who are eager to help you find the sources you need- your Chaffey Librarians! Whether you're trying to figure out how to use the databases, how to figure out if a website is credible, or how to pick a good topic, we are here to help you at all points of your journey! You can find a librarian on Cranium Cafe or you can email us at You can also make an appointment to talk with a librarian on Zoom by emailing us as well.

Chaffey College • 5885 Haven Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91737 - 3002 • 909/652-6000
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