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Education Research Starter: General Research

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Library Resources

  • Books give you in-depth information on a topic.

  • Books are good sources for information that happened in the past or interpretive information for an on-going event or problem.

How do I find books in the library?

*The library uses the Library of Congress system to organize the books on the shelves.  It is an alpha-numberic system.  Each item in the library has a label on the spine of the book with letters and numbers (together called a call number) which indicates its place on the shelf.  The letters indicate a subject area and the numbers which follow further subdivide the broader topic into more specific categories.




Reference books are a great starting point to get an overview of a topic.  These include:

  • Encyclopedias

  • Dictionaries

  • Yearbooks

  • Handbooks/Manuals

  • Directories

  • Atlases

  • Almanacs

  • Bibliographies

  • Biographical Dictionaries

  • Quotation Dictionaries

How do I find Reference books in the library?

  • Search WorldCat Discovery.
  • Use the call number to locate the book on the shelf in the Reference section of the library.

The books in the REFERENCE section of the library cannot be checked out.  These are for in-library use only!

Have you tried out these reference databases?

What are course reserves?

The reserve service in the library assists faculty by making more readily available those resources which multiple students must use intensively for a short period of time or repeatedly throughout the semester.  Resources placed on reserve by instructors may be marked as unable to be checked out (so others can have access) or specified with one-, two- or three-night check out privileges.

How do I access course reserves?

You will probably use these books at some point, ask about them at the circulation desk. Students may access the course reserves by presenting their student i.d. card at the circulation desk. The professor designates the circulation policy of the resource.  Some resources are for library use only while others may be checked out daily or weekly.  You can also search the Course Reserves by course, professor, or department.

What is a periodical?

Periodicals are magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers, and newsletters, published in regular intervals- daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.

  • Magazine: A magazine is a collection of articles and images about diverse topics of popular interest and current events. Usually these articles are written by journalists or scholars and are geared toward the average adult.
  • Journal: A journal is a collection of articles usually written by scholars in an academic or professional field. An editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted.
  • Newspaper: A newspaper is a collection of articles about current events usually published daily. It is a great source for local information.

You should use academic journals for college research and writing.



Comparing Popular, Scholarly, and Trade Periodicals






  • Mostly journalists
  • Scholars in an academic or professional field (i.e. doctors, lawyers, educators)
  • Staff writers, industry specialists, and contributing authors

Intended Audience

  • Average adult
  • General public
  • Scholars or professionals in a particular discipline, field of study, or trade (psychology, medicine, law, etc.)
  • Practitioners and professionals in a specific industry, trade, or organization


  • General interest
  • Popular culture
  • General news
  • Entertainment
  • Original research (such as scientific experiments, surveys and research studies)
  • Critical analysis of topics relative to the profession
  • Charts, diagrams, and/or tables showing data or experiment results are often included
  • Industry related news, trends, techniques, product reviews, statistical data, upcoming events, and more

Level of Language

  • "Everyday" vocabulary/terms
  • Meant to be easily understood by all audiences
  • Specialized vocabulary
  • Terms and concepts specific to a particular discipline or field of study
  • Use vocabulary relevant to an industry, trade or organization

References or Bibliography of Sources

  • Very rarely are any sources listed
  • A list of references or sources is provided at the end of each article
  • Some, but not all, articles contain a list of sources

Review Policy

  • Articles are reviewed by the magazine's editor or editorial staff
  • An editorial board, composed of experts in the field, reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted
  • Also known as "refereed," "peer-reviewed," "professional," or "academic"
  • Articles are reviewed by the publication’s general editorial staff


  • Almost always and in high quantities
  • Occasionally, but highly specialized and specific to scholarly discipline (i.e. specific laboratory equipment, medical tools and drugs)
  • Advertising almost always present
  • Ads relate to relevant industry, trade, or organization


  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • People
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Stone Soup
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Journal of American Studies
  • College Composition and Communication
  • Journal of Business Administration
  • Annual Review of Plant Biology
  • Nature
  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
  • Publishers Weekly
  • Advertising Age
  • American Libraries
  • Chronicle of Higher Education
  • American Nurse
  • PC Week


Why Should You Use Scholarly Sources?

In all disciplines, knowledge is built by responding to the ideas and discoveries of those who came before us. Scholarly journal articles are unique in that they require authors to document and make verifiable the sources of the facts, ideas, and methods they used to arrive at their insights and conclusions. Scholarly articles also strive to identify and discuss the merits of alternative explanations and viewpoints for the positions they espouse. This makes it easier to assess the truth, as well as the strengths and weaknesses, of the claims made in a paper. This is the case for those with knowledge of a subject (for example, your professor), as well as for those just beginning to learn about a subject (for example, you).

As you know, anyone can say just about anything in articles posted on the web. While you might agree with the conclusions of a paper found on the web, you are often not given the chain of evidence you need to assess the truth of those conclusions. Likewise, articles published in popular magazines, while they provide information and opinions, are not required to document evidence that either supports or negates their conclusions. Scholarly journal articles, unlike web-based or popular magazine articles, are designed and structured to provide the elements necessary to most thoroughly evaluate the validity and truth of an author's position.

The library offers access to several eBook collections and individual titles. These collections cover a variety of disciplines including business, economics, technology, engineering, humanities, arts, and sciences.  

What is an eBook?

An electronic book (also e-book, ebook, eBook, digital book) is a book made available in digital form and designed to be read using special eBook software, some of which preserve the book's original layout and design. EBooks can be read on a variety of PCs (desktops, notebooks, tablets, and handhelds), PDAs, and dedicated eBook readers using specifically designed eBook software. 

How do I access eBooks at LETU?


Major eBook Collections



Free eBooks on the Web

What is a research database?

Databases contain academic research materials such as peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers, news paper articles, magazines, and other sources.  Within each of the major databases, you can find specific disciplinary collections such as Engineering, Science and Technology, Nursing, Education, etc. 



How do I access LETU research databases?


Major Research Databases


Research Process

Choosing your topic is the first step in the research process. Be aware that selecting a good topic may not be easy. It must be narrow and focused enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to find adequate information. 

Image result for idea



#1 Research tip: Pick a topic that interests you!  You are going to live with this topic for weeks while you research, read, and write your assignment. Choose something that will hold your interest and that you might even be excited about. Your attitude towards your topic will come across in your writing or presentation!




Brainstorming is a technique you can use to help you generate ideas. Below are brainstorming exercises and resources to help you come up with research topic ideas. 

Ask yourself the following questions to help you generate topic ideas:

  • Do you have a strong opinion on a current social or political controversy?
  • Did you read or see a news story recently that has interested you?
  • Do you have a personal issue, problem or interest that you would like to know more about?
  • Is there an aspect of one of your classes that you would like to learn more about?


Try these mind mapping tools!

            Image result for bubbl us

Background information can help you prepare for further research by explaining all the issues related to your topic, especially when you're investigating a field that's unfamiliar to you. 


  • Check for background information in: dictionaries, handbooks, and encyclopedias.
  • Look for facts in: statistical guides, almanacs, biographical sources, or handbooks.
  • Collect keywords or important terms, concepts, and author names to use when searching databases.
  • Start thinking in broad terms, then narrow down your topic. 
  • Look at bibliographies to guide you to other sources of information (books, articles, etc.)

 Keep track of 

Keywords are the main terms that describe your research question or topic.  

  1. Identify the main concepts in your research question. Typically there should only be two or three main concepts.
  2. Look for keywords that best describe these concepts.
  3. You can look for keywords when reading background information or encyclopedia articles on your topic.
  4. Use a thesaurus, your textbook and subject headings in databases to find different keywords.

It is common to modify your topic during the research process. You can never be sure of what you may find. You may find too much and need to narrow your focus, or too little and need to broaden your focus. This is a normal part of the research process. When researching, you may not wish to change your topic, but you may decide that some other aspect of the topic is more interesting or manageable.

If you are finding too much information, your research topic may be too BROAD.  

Broad Topic:  Global warming

Narrower Topic:  How will climate change impact the sea levels of the coastal United States?

If you are finding too little information, your topic may be too NARROW.

Narrow Topic:  Does cartoon viewing cause aggression in children under age seven?

Broader:  What are the negative effects of TV on children?

Once you have refined your topic, the next step is to formulate a research question.  

Your research question should be focused and specific.  The question should allow for two or more possible answers.  See examples below:

There are many different types of information sources that can be useful for your research.  See the different types available at the LETU Library.

The chart below lists some common sources with example to help you evaluate and select the best sources for your research project.

Generating Search Terms

To retrieve the most relevant search results, you will need to construct a search string

A search string is a combination of keywords, truncation symbols, and boolean operators you enter into the search box of a library database or search engine.

When trying to find information, it is best to try several different search strings in the library databases or search engine.  Try out the keyword generator to create search strings!


A critical step in the research process is evaluating the information you found.  It is important to select information that comes from a reputable source.   Scholarly resources should be used in academic writing.

Below are questions to ask yourself when evaluating books, magazines and websites.

Publisher — who published or sponsored this work? Are they reputable?

Credentials — who is the author (or authors)? Are qualifications or degrees listed?

Accuracy — can the information be verified in other respected sources?

Currency — is the information’s publishing date current enough for the topic of the research paper? For subject areas that change frequently, like medicine, politics or finance, use the most up-to-date information.

Bias — does the author or publisher express an opinion (example: newspaper editorial) or is the information factual (like statistics). Does bias affect the information’s accuracy?

Audience — who is the information written for — a specific readership, level of expertise or age/grade level? Is the audience focus appropriate for a research paper?

Website Evaluation

Because the web is self-published, it requires the most critical analysis before use in a research paper. 

Beyond the basic criteria mentioned for all resources look for additional proof of value in websites. Some hoax sites look very credible until viewed with a critical eye.

Look for: 

  • Mission/Vision/Purpose Statement — reveals purpose of the website and point of view. 
  • Credentials — a well-regarded sponsoring organization or an expert author. (Webpage content may not list an individual author.) 
  • Date of last revision — this reveals how recently the content of a website has been reviewed. 
  • Contact information — is there a physical address and telephone number the researcher can use to contact a real person with questions? 
  • Loaded language — words that assign emotional value can be used to manipulate attitude. “Patriot” sounds better than “vigilante,” “insurgency” less scary than “civil war.” 
  • Links — do other reputable websites link to the website and does it link to other reputable sites. 

Style Guides to Consult

Academic organizations and some disciplines outline their own styles of how to cite sources and format research papers.  You may have heard of or used some of the styles before.   

Consult these print and online style guides for examples of citing sources in the text of your paper and in a bibliography or reference list.  See also information about citation software supported by LETU Library.

MLA: Modern Language Association [Humanities]

APA: American Psychological Association [Social Sciences] 

CMS: Chicago Manual of Style [Theology and Various Subjects]

ACS: American Chemical Society

IEEE: Institute of Electronics & Electrical Engineers 


Choosing a Style

  • Ask your professor which style is preferred for the course.
  • Consult a style guide for examples of using various citation styles to create in-text citations, bibliographies and reference lists, or use citation software to assist you in tracking sources used and building in-text citations and bibliographies. 
  • Use a standard style, such as APA, and be consistent with it throughout your paper.   
  • Ask for citation and paper-writing assistance at the LETU Writing Center.

Style Guides to Consult

Academic organizations and some disciplines outline their own styles of how to cite sources and format research papers.  You may have heard of or used some of the styles before.   

Consult these print and online style guides for examples of citing sources in the text of your paper and in a bibliography or reference list.  See also information about citation software supported by LETU Library.

MLA: Modern Language Association [Humanities]

APA: American Psychological Association [Social Sciences] 

CMS: Chicago Manual of Style [Theology and Various Subjects]

ACS: American Chemical Society

IEEE: Institute of Electronics & Electrical Engineers 


"The purpose of a research paper is to synthesize previous research and scholarship with your ideas on the subject. Therefore, you should feel free to use other persons' words, facts, and thoughts in your research paper, but the material you borrow must not be presented as if it were your own creation."

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th Edition. New York: MLA. 55. Print.


It's important to cite sources you used in your research for several reasons:

  • To show your reader you've done proper research by listing sources you used to get your information
  • To be a responsible scholar by giving credit to other researchers and acknowledging their ideas
  • To avoid plagiarism by quoting words and ideas used by other authors
  • To allow your reader to track down the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper by way of footnotes, a bibliography or reference list

Citing a source means that you show, within the body of your text, that you took words, ideas, figures, images, etc. from another place.

Citations are a short way to uniquely identify a published work (e.g. book, article, chapter, web site).  They are found in bibliographies and reference lists and are also collected in article and book databases. 

Citations consist of standard elements, and contain all the information necessary to identify and track down publications, including:

  • author name(s)
  • titles of books, articles, and journals
  • date of publication
  • page numbers
  • volume and issue numbers (for articles)

Citations may look different, depending on what is being cited and which style was used to create them. Choose an appropriate style guide for your needs.  Here is an example of an article citation using four different citation styles.  Notice the common elements as mentioned above:

Author - R. Langer

Article Title - New Methods of Drug Delivery

Source Title - Science

Volume and issue - Vol 249, issue 4976

Publication Date - 1990

Page numbers - 1527-1533


American Chemical Society (ACS) style:

     Langer, RNew Methods of Drug DeliveryScience 19902491527-1533.

IEEE Style:

     R. Langer, "New Methods of Drug Delivery," Sciencevol. 249pp. 1527-1533SEP 28, 1990.

American Psychological Association  (APA) style:

     Langer, R(1990)New methods of drug delivery. Science,249(4976), 1527-1533.

Modern Language Association (MLA) style:

     Langer, R"New Methods of Drug Delivery." Science 249.4976(1990): 1527-33.

You should cite when...

  • Ideas, words, theories, or exact language that another person used in other publications
  • Using an image or media file that you did not create
  • Facts, figures, ideas, or other information that is not common knowledge

When in doubt, cite it

When referring to a source, you have three options for using it...

  1. Directly Quoting 
  2. Summarizing 
  3. Paraphrasing

"Which option you should choose depends on how much of a source you are using, how you are using it, and what kind of paper you are writing, since different fields use sources in different ways." Grounds for Argument. When to Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize a Source. Used under CC BY NC SA


You do not need to cite...

  • Your thoughts and your interpretations
  • Common knowledge​

What is a Citation Generator?

Many different tools exist to assist you in the process of creating a citation entry. Many credible websites and library databases include citation generators for each source.  Examples include the following:

There are advantages and challenges to working with these tools. 

Common mistakes include:

  • Selecting the wrong type of information source
  • Inputting information incorrectly or leaving information out
  • Misplaced or incorrect punctuation
  • Improper capitalization

The biggest mistake is in completely trusting a citation generator to make no errors. Make sure you closely review all citations created in this way. You'll also still want to refer to your citation style guide to learn how to format your works cited/reference page.

General Reference Databases

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Citation Management


How to Avoid Plagiairism