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Education Sources: Starting Your Research

This guide has been archived and may have outdated information or broken links.

Starting Your Research

  • Think about your topic BEFORE you come to the library. What information do you need to know or find out? How will this information be of use to you once you locate it? (See: http://library.csun.edu/Guides/ResearchStrategies/GettingStarted)
    If you are writing a research paper, consider writing a brief outline to help you organize your thoughts.
  • IN ADVANCE of starting your research, write down the subject words that describe your topic (this is known as your search strategy). It will give you a focus when you actually begin searching.
  • Bring a printed (written) copy of your assignment with you to the Library (if possible) detailing the requirements so that you can refer to it as you conduct your research; it will help keep you on track.
  • How much information do you need? Three sources? Six sources?
  • What type? Books? Journals? Magazines?
  • Take ten. If you come to the library and after ten minutes of beginning your research, you are not finding material relevant to your topic, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND ASK FOR ASSISTANCE. There is no point in continuing down a dead end path. Consult with a librarian to help get you started with appropriate research source(s) for your assignment.
  • What have you found? Journal article or magazine article? If you are not sure, ASK HOW to recognize the difference (See:
  • Know that it is "O.K." to ask reference librarians questions. That is why they are here. Librarians are available at the first floor Reference Desk, as well as via email, live chat, Text-a-Librarian and by individual appointment made in advance (See: http://library.csun.edu/ResearchAssistance/AskUs ).
  • Ask questions of more than one librarian if you need to. Librarians often have subject expertise in specific areas and often have different approaches to answering the same question.
  • When you locate material of interest, print out or write down where you found the information (which database?). Keep track of authors, titles, publication dates, etc. needed for your reference list later.
  • Are you paraphrasing or plagiarizing? If you're re-stating what someone else has stated (written) in your own words, that's paraphrasing (and you should still credit the source). If you are cutting and pasting someone else's words into your work without giving them credit, that's plagiarizing. Don't do that. It can get you kicked out of school and that doesn't look good on your resume (See: http://www.csun.edu/a&r/soc/studentconduct.html). Check with your instructor or a librarian on how to properly cite your sources.
  • Don't wait until the last minute. Although it's exciting to live on the edge, come to the library before the pressure is on. Become familiar with the resources available to you. Ask why subscription databases are different from the Internet (See:http://library.csun.edu/Guides/ResearchStrategies/EvaluatingLibraryResources).
  • Printing? The library offers only a "pay to print" option for its computer printers and photocopy machines. Both require a library debit card. Debit card machines accept paper currency only ($1.00, $5.00, etc.). Bring cash with you if there is a possibility that you will want to print from a computer station or make copies. When sending documents or web pages to the printer, your materials are saved for ½ hour only (30 minutes). Be sure to pick up your materials by that time. After that, they are DELETED.
  • Ask about connecting to the Library's Databases from off-campus (home) (See: http://library.csun.edu/Services/FromHome).
  • Again, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR ASSISTANCE (if you don't ask, librarians don't know that you need help)!

Judge Julian Beck Grant Project completed July, 2004, updated July 2008

Mara L. Houdyshell, CSUN Reference Librarian; Tamarah Ashton, Ph.D., CSUN College of Special Education