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Developing Research Skills: Be Strategic

The purpose of this guide is to introduce you to information literacy skills (superpowers) through the use of an existing research assignment so that you will feel more confident and equipped in college research activities.

Plan Your Search

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Strategy when searching for information will ensure a good search in the right places!

Flexiblity and natural curiosity are important in the research process, but you need to have strategic thinking - the ability to make a good plan of attack.  This requires thinking about two key areas of your quest for information, and it builds upon the research questions you asked yourself at the last stage of your Information League training.  Those two areas are 1) Where to search - types of information sources and where to go to find them and 2) How to search - what search terms will be the best to use in an article database, search engine, or website?  At times, you will be limited by certain types of resources and search tools by your instructor.  If there are no requirements made by your instructor, you will need to ask yourself which kind of information will best answer your research questions.

In this section of the Information League, you will learn about different types of information sources, how to form effective search terms using keywords, and have the opportunity to create your own search plan. Search Tips and Tutorials are provided on a sub-tab.

Types of Sources and Where to Search

If you are new to your topic with very little prior knowledge, it may be hard to formulate good search terms, determine the specifics of your paper or topic, or identify sources of information that will help you.  Reading basic facts and background information will give you the perspective and knowledge to move forward.  In most cases, you would not ultimately cite or use those sources as evidence in your paper.  

If you are researching a topic that could be informed by reporting personal experiences or public opinion on an issue, sources of opinion and narrative are appropriate.  Be sure to check carefully over your assignment and if the guidelines only call for scholarly sources, you cannot cite opinion or narrative.  However, you may read from these sources to gain further background knowledge.

Analysis and research from scholarly books, scholarly journals, and research-oriented websites will be the focus of your college research tasks.  These sources report verifiable information resulting from extensive study or original research in a topical area.

Use this table to match your information need (background, opinion, analysis) to the types of sources offering broad or specific information.

A table showing types of sources by their information scope and content.  A screen readable PDF is available via a link below the table.

(Click here for an accessible PDF version)

Within your library's resources and on the web, you may need to know where to find the types of sources identified in the table above.  Use this table to find out where to search for primary sources, books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and websites.

A table showing where to search for types of sources from the library's print and online collections.  Just below the image there is a PDF link that is screen readable.

(Click here for an accessible PDF version with clickable links to library resources)

Video Tutorials (2)

What are Databases and Why You Need Them (Yavapai College Library)

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What are Databases and Why You Need Them

Understanding the Information Cycle (University of Illinois UGL)

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