Research Paper Basics

Topic Search

Be sure you understand what is expected from the paper or research project.  Read the instructions, or syllabus carefully.  When in doubt, talk to you professor.  The more you understand what you need the easier you will find it.

Finding a topic

  • Browse through various current periodicals and look for ideas.
  • Browse the library shelves
  • As topics catch your interest, read the essay in the general encyclopedia on the topic
  • Pick a topic that interests you

Starting Your Library Research

  • Read the essay on the topic in the general or subject encyclopedia
  • Search the library catalog for items related to your topic
  • Search Access Pennsylvania for items on topic available via Interlibrary Loan

Database Searches

Newsbank, Inc World of Information
Wilson Web

What you have read so far will give you a good idea of keywords to search

If keywords fail to bring useful information, try a subject heading search

Search Tips for Keyword Searchers

Use operators And, Or & Not

  •             And – locates articles that contain all of the keywords or phrases
  •             Or – locates articles that contains at least one of the keywords or phrases
  •             Not – is used to eliminate artiles that contain some words and not others

Example: the search “earthquakes and California and Washington and not San Francisco” would eliminate earthquakes from San Francisco from your search.

Each database will have further search operations that may be useful.  Check the help for the database for instructions.