Skip to main content
COVID-19 Update: The Library building is closed; limited access to physical material.

Getting Started with Research: Home

How do I begin my research?

You may find it helpful to begin with an overview of your topic before delving into in-depth research.

  • Your syllabus or course textbook may have summaries and bibliographies of recommended readings.
  • Review the reference sources (encyclopedias, handbooks, manuals, etc.) available on the main floor of the library or online.
  • Meet with a librarian to discuss possible research strategies.

Types of Research Resources

  • Scholarly (or Academic or Peer-Reviewed) Publications: written by experts in the field and vetted by other experts. Information in scholarly journals is authoritative and suitable for use academic papers.
  • Popular Publications: magazines, newspapers, and other sources intended for a general audience. Information is up-to-date, but may lack the depth necessary for an academic paper.
  • Encyclopedias: collections of overviews on a number of topics. These are a great source of background knowledge and factual information.
  • Trade Journals: contain reports, news, and advertising directed at people working in a specific industry or vocation.
  • Multimedia: sources such as radio and television broadcasts, film, online videos, music, and speeches.
  • Blogs: Online sites that often contain breaking news and the writer's opinion. While some blogs are suitable for use in academic papers, they must be evaluated in order to determine if they are legitimate, authoritative, and unbiased.
  • Gray Literature: sources created by official institutions (government offices, research centers, and corporations) but not officially published. Examples include committee reports, conference proceedings, newsletters, and working papers.

The Research Process

Many students begin an assignment with a question and use research to find the answer. But in academic writing research is actually part of the process of finding the question. Try beginning with a broad topic and doing research to figure out a question to ask about it. As you find facts about your subject you'll have a better sense of what kind of question you should be asking--with the help of research skills, you can devise an appropriate and achievable question. 

                  

Broaden and Narrow your Search Results

Created by the Seattle Central Community College Library

Why do I need background information?

Once you have identified some keywords, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research:
  • Provides a good overview of the topic if you are unfamiliar with it.
  • Helps identify important facts -- terminology, dates, events, history, organizations, important scholars, etc.
  • Can help you identify or refine your topic.
  • Leads to bibliographies which provide additional sources of information.

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Use the Gale Virtual Reference Library to search for background information about your topic.  Enter your term or phrase, find "Overview" type articles to find out the background, sub-topics, and literature reviews.  This will help you to uncover key words, key dates, key names and events or legislation which will help you narrow and focus your topic.

For field specific background reference and suggested books:

  • Cultural Anthropology / Ethnology
  • Physical Anthropology
  • Archaeology​
  • Ethnography
  • Human Ecology