Developing A Research Strategy

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What do you want to know? What has been assigned? If you need an overview of the subject, a general dictionary or encyclopedia will help. Check the print or ebook collection and look for specific people,  places, events, and dates that can later be used in keyword searches of the subject:

Need a more detailed overview?  Choose a subject specific encyclopedia or dictionary,  Oxford Companion to Classical History in the library or online:

What do you want to know about the topic? It may be general at this point, but you can narrow, broaden, and refine it as you do your research!

Research Guides for all courses with a research component have been developed in collaboration with your professors. These will direct you to their preferred sources and have already been approved as scholarly. 

Librarians!  Drop by their offices or email askalibrarian@phc.edu and connect with a friendly librarian who is familiar with your assignments , can help you refine your topic, and can direct you to appropriate sources.

Library catalog: Check the library's online catalog for print and online items of all formats owned by the library. 

Looking just for eBooks? Check the library's online  eBook collection.

Expand your search : Resources suggested here are just a few of the many the library provides. PHC provides Library access to journal and newspaper articles in several locations.  The most often needed in your first year's of college are our general databases:

Subject specific databases will narrow your focus. Here's a couple, but there are many more available in the library's  Electronic Resources by Subject page: 

Online scholarly resources including government and primary source documents: Avalon  Project (primary source documents in American history), Eurodocs (primary source  documents in European history), Labyrinth (medieval history), Supreme Court  and Congressional Digest Debates. 

Looking for a specific newspaper or journal? Check to see if the library provides access in the Periodical Listing.

Select great search terms:  use the people, places, events, and dates as key words for your search.  Expand search using additional, related terms, such as "middle ages" OR "medieval" ; "diet" OR "nutrition" ; "England" OR "Britain" - you get the idea.

Bibliographies: Use the bibliography of a good source to expand your list of good sources.  

Professors require that college level research projects are supported by scholarly sources. How do you know a source is scholarly? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the author? Is the author a credentialed expert on the subject?  Who is the publisher? Is the publishing company a recognized academic publisher? Is the journal peer reviewed, meaning other experts in the field have reviewed the article prior to publication? 

  • Is this accurate?  Is there evidence of bias? Does the author fail to support the premise with facts and appropriate research? Does the author cite other experts who are in agreement? Is there a financial incentive for the conclusion? 

  • Is this current? Does this represent the latest findings in this subject area? Note: Some topics require very current analysis, such as public policy, while others, such as ancient history, might not. 

You will be utilizing other people's ideas and conclusions in your research and ethically and legally they need to get credit. Any information that is generally well known or references to well-known documents, such as The United States Constitution, does not need to be cited, but information that you glean from others must be paraphrased or placed within a quote, then cited.  Lifting a paragraph out of WIkipedia or any source is unethical, illegal, and will always bring down a professor's wrath.  

Check the course syllabus for your professor's preferred citation style. Citation assistance in available in the library and online at Online Writing Lab (OWL).   Legal citations needed?  Check  out Georgetown Law's  Legal Citations.  


Remember, always, that library research assistance is only an email away! askalibrarian@phc.edu 

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