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HONR292-080: Our Ocean Planet (Honors) (Thoroughgood)

Search Strategies

Define your research topic in a sentence or two

  • Ask yourself: who, what, where, when, why, how

Identify the major concepts

List keywords for each concept

Select the resources according to needed information

  • General information, background: books, encyclopedias (DELCAT Discovery, CREDO Reference)
  • Data, facts, figures: handbooks, guides, compilations
  • Current discussion or news reports: newspapers, trade magazines
  • Current research, technical information: journals, patents (databases)

Choose a research topic that interests you. If your topic is too general (e.g., climate change), read an overview from a general source such as an encyclopedia to gain background information, get lists of books and articles for further reading, start to become familiar with the phrases and vocabulary used to describe the subject. 

As you learn more about the subject, ask yourself questions about what you want to know. This will help to narrow your topic and focus upon the aspect that you are going to research. So if you first thought of writing about climate change and coastal communities, try stating it in the form of a question: "How has climate change affected coastal communities?"

To further develop your topic, you may want to focus on a particular effect of climate change (e.g., sea level rise), or legislative efforts to mitigate climate change.

As you conduct research about your topic and develop your research question, you will become more familiar with the keywords and phrases used to describe the subject. Identify the major concepts of your research topic and start a list of the different keywords used.

The research question "How has climate change affected coastal communities?" has two major concepts:

  • climate change, global warming
  • coastal communities

Primary literature and peer-reviewed journals

Primary sources represent original research from the discovery stage to official publications:

  • R&D stage (lab notebooks)
  • Informal sharing (communication between colleagues, departmental colloquia)
  • preliminary communication (letters to the Editor, Letters Journals, Biosequence data) 
  • formalized documents (patents, conference proceedings, technical reports, dissertations & theses, journal articles)

Secondary sources organize, repackage and concentrate the published information from primary sources into: 

  • Indexes & Abstracts, Bibliographies, Databases (bibliographic, bioinformatics)
  • Handbooks, Dictionaries, Directories, Yearbooks, Almanacs
  • Encyclopedias, Treatises, Monographs or Books, Reviews

Secondary sources are where you go to find general overviews of research occurring in the field or interpretations of past research.

Is a review article considered a primary source?
No, because the authors are not reporting their own original research, but rather, they are discussing other authors' research in order to present a review of the subject area or topic.

How can I tell if a journal is peer-reviewed?

  • In a database, look for a filter that will limit the results to peer-review journals: "Peer-Reviewed Journals", "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals", or "Scholarly Journal"
  • Search for the title on the Library's E-Journals page, and look for the "Peer-Reviewed" designation.
  • Go to the journal's home page for more information about the journal.

NOTE: Not all items published in a peer-reviewed journal are necessarily peer-reviewed, for example editorials or letters.