Save your Sanity: Develop a Research Strategy

Before you even enter the library you should make a plan of attack, a research strategy. Such a strategy will help you save time and will help you navigate the reference books, the card catalog, periodical holdings and databases at the library. Of course, we will assume you have a topic and a nomial thesis question ready. In order to save time and work efficiently, follow these steps:

1. Develop a list of key terms from your thesis question to use when search card catalogs, InroTrac, ProQuest and other databases.

2. Develop a list of boolean search strings to use when search databases and the Internet.

3. Note the LOC numbers for the area where books on your topic will be shelved, both the reference stacks and the general circulation stacks.

4. Make a list of the databases, web sites and directories that you will use when you go to the library.

5. Set a specific time for library research: try to schedule more than one hour at a time.

6. Exploit bibliographies whenever you can. At the end of chapters, at the end of books, at the end of articles you may find bibliographies. Use bibliographies these to find other sources, the names of experts, organizations, etc.

7. Make sure you either copy down the bibliographic information or Xerox the title page and copyright page for every source that you get from the library. Not doing this will cost you extra time if you decide to use the source in your paper.