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Introduction to Library Research

Beginning your search

We almost always suggest beginning your research by searching the Chicago School library catalog. We have over 120 databases, and this tool will search nearly all of them.

  1. The advantage to searching everything at the beginning point of your research is to give you an idea of what is currently written on your topic. It is very tempting to look for the specific seed of an idea you have in your mind at the beginning of your research, but we do urge you to explore!
  2. As you become more and more familiar with your topic, you will start to identify particular databases that you know tend to contain a lot of information relevant to your topic. See the next box for more details!
  3. When searching the catalog, you're probably going to begin by using the kind of words you would use in a general search engine. These are called keywords.
  4. Remember that the catalog searches almost all of the databases that we have access to. 
  5. Don't discount books! Even if you're an online student, you may still request book chapters through interlibrary loan, and use our ebooks!
  6. Remember, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses is not listed in the library catalog, so be sure to check this database separately!
  7. You may wish to supplement your initial research with a general search engine, or a Google Scholar search. Although you can certainly find some information relevant to your topic, a general search will only take you so far. Using the databases will almost always yield you better, more relevant, and authoritative results.

After your initial search

As your research progresses, you may start to go directly to a specific database. Until you are familiar with your topic, go broad!

  1. Your research question will guide your choice of databases more than anything. Take a look at our research databases and notice what broad categories we have chosen to group the list by. Does your topic fall into any of these categories?
  2. It might also be helpful to notice what databases you should probably avoid. If my topic is about humor as a defense mechanism, I might want to stay away from Lexis-Nexis, as this database contains a lot of legal and business news and information. "Defense" would have a very distinct legal implication in this database.
  3. When picking databases, think about what sources are expected or required of your research. If you can only use scholarly articles, it may be a wise move to avoid the newspaper databases. Conversely, if your topic is related to a contemporary event, using newspapers as sources may be helpful in addition to scholarly articles.