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Research 101

Your starter kit for college-level research at Kennedy Library. Advance your research skills with the self-guided tutorials and videos below.

On this page, you will find answers to frequently asked questions about the research process and Kennedy Library resources.

How do I develop an appropriate research question and keyword strategy?

After you’ve chosen a topic to research, gather some background information. Google is a great starting place for this. It’s important to learn as much as you can about your topic and how it fits in a broader context. While background searching, you will also become familiar with the terminology surrounding your topic which will help you to develop an effective keyword strategy to find the most relevant sources for your research. The self-guided lesson Begin Research in the Research 101 Tutorial provides tips on developing a focused topic and appropriate research question, expanding your search terms, and gathering information to help you refine your topic.

Where can I find the best sources for my research paper?

This depends on the types of information sources you need and where you are in your research process. When you’re just starting out, you’ll want to gather background information on your topic by searching on Google or another search engine. Once you have a good understanding of your topic and the beginnings of a research question, try OneSearch. This is the ‘Amazon’ of the library or the one-stop-shop. You can access most of the library’s resources here including articles, books, ebooks, and more. After OneSearch, try searching in a library database. You’ll search through fewer resources in a database, but this can be helpful when you need information on a specific subject or discipline, or type of resource. For example, you can search for ebooks on a variety of subjects in Ebook Central. In addition to subject-specific databases, there are also many multi-subject databases like Academic Search Premier. For students in ENGL 134, 145, & 149 and COMS 101 & 102 courses, there is an Assignment Recommendations page on Research 101 with recommended databases and search strategies by assignment type or topic (e.g., Contemporary or Controversial Topics, Cal Poly/Local Information, etc).

How can I find the best sources in OneSearch and Kennedy Library Databases?

Check out these helpful videos on finding articles, books, and ebooks in OneSearch, understanding types of information sources, getting the full-text article, choosing the right database(s), and using boolean operators. 

Search Tip: In OneSearch, use keywords and filters to narrow your results to the most relevant resources. In databases, use keywords, filtering, and boolean operators when available to help broaden or narrow your search results. 

How do I determine if a source is credible?

It is up to you to decide if information is credible and reliable to use in your research and to share with others. The Civic Online Reasoning framework can help you evaluate the credibility of a wide range of information by asking the following three questions:

  • Who’s behind the information?

  • What’s the evidence?

  • What do other sources say?

Visit the Evaluate Sources section on the Research 101 Guide for more resources on evaluating the credibility and quality of information sources, identifying and efficiently reading scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles, and using sources in your research and writing.

What is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal article? How can I determine if an article is peer-reviewed?

Scholarly, peer-reviewed sources are a specific type of article that you will use in academic research. Scholarly journals are the type of publication these articles are found in. The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to publish original research by scholars. These research articles undergo the peer-review process before they are published in the journal to ensure quality and accuracy. Explore Anatomy of a Scholarly Article to learn more about the different parts of a scholarly article and tips about how each section can help you with your research.

Keep in mind there are different types of scholarly articles including original research (empirical) articles, review articles (literature review or systematic review), and theoretical articles. Other content you may find in scholarly journals are book reviews and/or editorials. These are not peer-reviewed. Check out this guide by UC Merced Library for more information on types of scholarly articles.

For more resources, visit the Evaluate Sources section on the Research 101 Guide for a three-minute video on the peer-review process and a handout on how to identify scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles.

What is an efficient method for reading a scholarly article?

Check out the How to Identify a Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed Journal Article (Handout) for strategies on reading scholarly articles (on page 3).

How do I cite a source?

You will cite your source(s) using the citation style required by your professor (e.g., MLA, APA, etc). Check out the Cite Sources page on the Research 101 Guide for information on why citing your sources is important and popular citation styles and how-to guides.

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