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Library Research - learn how to find information on any topic

Walks you through how to choose a topic, identify keywords, develop a search strategy, evaluate your materials and document your findings.

5 steps to Better Library Research

5 Steps to Research

1. Choose your topic, keep it broad!

2. Gather Background Information

Get background information on your topic to save you time and prevent frustration! Is the topic what you thought? 

Start by looking in:

  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Class textbooks

Note: These resources can often provide you with a list of books and articles on your topic.

Be careful of sources like Wikipedia which can be edited by anyone. 

3. Narrow your topic

Time to focus in!  Narrow the focus of your topic. 


  • Time - current or past issue? How has it changed over time?
  • Place - does it affect just one place or many? What do you need to focus on?
  • Person or Group - Who?
  • Angle - what angle are you approaching the topic? What about your resources? Any Bias?

Note: Having at least three limiters will help narrow your research. The ones listed above are just examples, others may be more prevalent depending on your research!

4. Form a Search Question

Put your topic in the form of a question! What are you trying to answer?

This will help:

  • Give your research focus
  • You choose resources that provide answers 
  • Create a focused thesis statement

5. Create a Search Term List

The last step is to create a list of search terms to use when searching for books and articles in the Full Search and databases.

  1. Identify the key terms and concepts in your research question.
  2. Choose related terms for your key concepts.

Example Topic:



1. Topic: Immigration
2. Gather Background Information  
3. Limiters:  
Time Current, 1980
Place United States
Person/Group Immigrants
Aspect Higher Education
4. Search Question: How has higher education contributed to the success of immigrants in the United States?
5. Search Term List:  
Key Concepts Related Terms
Higher Education college, university
Success status, wealth
Immigrants migrants, aliens, Chicanos, Cubans




Adapted from Mizzou 

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