1. Decide on a topic and find background information
- Find background information first, and then use more specific sources. We suggest searching sources like Points of View Reference Center, CQ Researcher, Wikipedia, or Westlaw News to explore topic possibilities and choose keywords to use to search for more information.
- Is your topic too big in scope, or is it too limited? We have some tips on how to narrow or broaden your topic.
- Once you've chosen a topic, identify a variety of keywords you can use to locate more information on your topic.
2. Find articles in journals or magazines
- Search our UMD Library Catalog directly for articles and books.
- Academic OneFile, Academic Search Premier, or Google Scholar are great starting points for finding articles.
- For more specifics on your topic, you can choose from subject databases related to your course or major.
- If you have a database in mind, go to our complete listing of databases.
- Librarians have developed an extensive collection of Library Research Guides which can be helpful starting points for a paper.
3. Evaluate sources
As you search, critically evaluate the sources you find to determine if they'll contribute to your project. Consider the following when determining if a source will be useful for your research:
- Author: Who wrote this article? Does the author have any relevant expertise or credentials? Does the author have connections to groups/interests that might indicate bias?
- Author's point of view: What is the author's argument or perspective on this topic? Is it relevant to your topic, and does it give you new insights or information that contributes to your project?
- Evidence: How does the author support their argument or point of view?
- Quality of evidence: Is the author's evidence convincing? Look for evidence that is based on research, rather than emotions or anecdotes.
- What's missing from this source? What kinds of additional information or perspectives would be helpful to have?
4. Get research support
As you research, you might want to talk to a librarian when
- You hit a wall in your research
- Your usual process isn't working for a particular project
- You want to learn about new tools and strategies to aid your research
To talk with a librarian: