When you are first starting to think about your topic for an assignment, there are issues about it that you need to consider BEFORE starting to do any research.

The first of these is WHEN the event you are writing about occurred. The time of the event will determine what kinds of information resources might be available to you. For instance, if you are doing a project on the American/Mexican border wall, because it is happening now, you probably won’t find many journal articles on this topic, unless you are looking for general information on border walls in general. Nor, probably, will you find books. It takes time to publish both books and scholarly journal articles, and the recent border wall developments are too recent. You can probably find magazine, newspapers, and web sites that discuss this particular subject.


So when an event occurred is going to be very influential in determining what kinds of information you will find.

If you know nothing about a topic you are beginning to research, encyclopedias can be useful. In this particular case, probably Wikipedia is a good place to start.

Chapter 2 mentions 3 major consideration to help you get started in your research.   The chart below identifies those three:


Finding Tools

What are the three major finding tools for your research, according to Chapter 1?

  • Library discovery tools (in our library–QuickSearch)–books, videos, sometimes websites
  • Periodical indexes–journal articles
  • Web search engines–journal articles, videos, websites

These are the tools you use to find the appropriate information sources, such as books, journal articles, videos, newspaper articles, and web sites that might be appropriate for your research project.

Types of Information Sources

Chapter 1 illustrates the types of information sources used for different types of information you need:

      • Library discovery tools

        • Background  information

        • Statistics

      • Periodical indexes

        • Statistics

        • News and general information

        • Scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles

      • Web search engines

        • Background information

        • Statistics

        • News & general information

        • Governmental sources

        • Other likely organizations, agencies

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources:  first account(s) of an event, often eye-witness.  Examples:

  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Letters
  • Raw data
  • Official documents
  • Legislation and court records
  • Photographs, postcards, posters
  • Newspaper articles
  • Speeches
  • Creative works (novels, songs, plays)
  • Maps

Secondary sources:  “second hand” accounts that have been analyzed and/or interpreted.  Usually written some time after an event takes place.  Examples:

  • Textbooks
  • Scholarly journal articles
  • Books
  • Encyclopedias
  • Reviews
  • Biographies
  • Reports
  • Handbooks

Choose your search terms carefully:

      • To get better, more relevant results
      • To help focus your search
      • To determine whether you’d be better off using a scholarly index with controlled  vocabulary
      • To use the correct controlled vocabulary for the different scholarly indexes



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