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Introduction to Library Research

Research is complex - We know!

Research can seem daunting or even downright terrifying. Get past that research anxiety with the help of the library!

Library research-- also known as bibliographic research-- is the most common type of academic research. It involves searching authoritative resources, usually databases and books, for information on a topic.

This guide is great for both a paper assigned in your class, as well as writing your dissertation or thesis.


Phrase your idea as a question. If I wanted to write about humor as a defense mechanism, I would ask "How is humor used as a defense mechanism?"

Now identify the most important ideas. In this case, it would be humor and defense.

Use these big ideas as the topics that you will search.


Now we find synonyms for these big ideas.

funny coping
amusement defend
sarcasm insecure
comic guard
jokes protect

In this particular example, I was able to come up with the same amount of synonyms for each idea. There may not be as many (or an equal number of) synonyms for your topic, which is fine.


Use truncation instead of trying to search for every word ending. In the case of amuse, you have related words like amusement, amuses, and amusing. The root of all these words is amus. Now, add an asterisk to it to let the database find everything that begins with amus. So you would type in "amus*" This search will return all the synonyms we discussed above.

Now, do the same thing for all the words you have: find the common letters and put an asterisk on the end.


Now that you have your synonyms, let's link them together to create a search.

With the same concept, link your synonyms together with OR. The way that you do this is using parentheses. Parentheses group things together to tell the computer what are synonyms.

With the last example, we would use (funn* OR amus* OR sarcas* OR comic* OR jok*)

Now repeat with your other concept. (coping OR cope* OR defend* OR insecur* OR guard* OR protect*)

Now, link your concepts together with AND.

(funn* OR amus* OR sarcas* OR comic* OR jok*) AND (coping OR cope* OR defend* OR insecur* OR guard* OR protect*)

Search, and review your results!


Did this make NO SENSE whatsoever? Follow the in-depth guide under Research 101!