Whether you are searching for books in the Five College Library Catalog, or searching for scholarly articles in a library database, it pays to be organized as you start your search. Break down searching into a three step process.
Write down as much information about your topic as possible. (You can use encyclopedias and other reference books to help gather background information).
Answer the following questions:
Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.
Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.
Now create a list of synonyms of your key concepts. Think broadly, think narrowly! This step is helping you expand your search by expressing your query in a variety of ways. If you get too many results, then you can work on focusing your search.
You will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between concepts.
Critical Evaluation of Resources. University of California Berkeley Library.
Covers scholarly vs. popular publications, primary vs. secondary resources, authority, and other criteria for evaluating print and online sources.
Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply and Questions to Ask. University of California Berkeley Library.