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Research Basics

A Guide to Academic Research at Dugan Library

Getting Started on Research

The goal of this guide is to help you get started on your research effectively and to develop skills that can help you both in your coursework and elsewhere in your life as you seek information.

Things to Remember

  • Know your due dates
  • Pay attention to the assignment instructions
  • Start your research as early as possible
  • Know your required citation format
  • Have a plan for saving your sources so you can easily find them again

Common Myths about College Research*

Understanding commonly held myths about college research will help you approach your projects in a more informed manner.

Myth: Feeling overwhelmed means I'm behind my peers.
Reality: Strong majorities of students experience being overwhelmed by research and experience the need to learn new research skills. 

Myth: College research is about self-sufficiency and help from librarians or professors is only for those who can't keep up.
Reality: Academic work at all levels is highly collaborative and accurately identifying and benefiting from the resources and expertise available to you is a mark of competence, not incompetence. No one would accuse a professional athlete of being incompetent for seeking advice from coaches, nutritionists, and trainers to maximize their skills; why would honing research skills be any different?

Myth: People who have grown up with Google will automatically be good at keyword searching.
Reality: Studies have shown that even students who have had the internet their whole lives struggle to formulate successful Google or database searches.

Myth: Libraries are irrelevant now that we have the internet.
Reality: Many resources (even digital ones) are only available behind a paywall and libraries have access to print resources, subscription databases, and interlibrary loan so that you can get access. Even when resources are freely available online, librarians often have specialized knowledge about where to find them.

Myth: Print materials at the library are outdated in a digital age.
Reality: Print resources and digital resources each have value and the best resource will often depend on context. In some academic disciplines the focus is primarily on academic journals (whether print or online), but in other disciplines, print books (monographs) are the focus.

Myth: Help from a reference librarian is only for students who are struggling.
Reality: Librarians are available to help anyone, whether you are struggling, you want to hone your research skills or you want to see if there are additional sources that you aren't familiar with.

* Sources: Head, A. J. (2013). Learning the ropes: How freshmen conduct course research once they enter college (Passage Studies Research Report). Project Information Literacy. https://projectinfolit.org/pubs/first-year-experience-study/pil_firstyear-experience_2013-12-04.pdf; McGeough, R. & Rudick, C. K. (2018). "It was at the library; therefore it must be credible": Mapping patterns of undergraduate heuristic decision-making. Communication Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/03634523.2017.1409899; Duke, L. M., & Asher, A. D. (Eds.). (2012). College Libraries and Student Culture: What We Now Know. American Library Association.

Acknowledgements: Much of the content and organization of this guide was adapted from Seminole State College Library's Research Foundations guide, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License and Daemen University Library's Research Basics adaptation of that content.