Preparing to do research requires 1) understanding your question and 2) deciding where you will look for your answers.
How Do You Find the Information You Need?
Ask the Right Question. Good research begins with a good question. A good question is specific. "Do children suffer from depression" is a better question than "I want something on depression", because it is more specific. If you spend a little time thinking about what you want to write about, you will spend less time spent searching for answers.
Choose the Right Words. There is usually more than one way to describe an idea. Make a list of possible alternative terms that authors might use to describe your concepts. For the question "Do children suffer from depression?" you might list "sadness" or "unhappiness" as alternative terms for depression and, depending on the age you wish to research, "child", "preteen", or "adolescent" as alternative terms for "children". If you don't find enough resources using your first choice terms, try these alternative terms.
For some help choosing your words and phrases, you might start with a dictionary or encyclopedia article on the subject. Credo Reference is a database with over 500 reference books. Try your search term right now in Credo Reference - it's that box to the left of this one - and see what you find. (If you're off campus, you may need to log in with your RTC email address and your email password.)
Decide Where to Start
After you have developed your question, consider which resources you will need to answer it. Will journals give you the best resources? Magazines? (And what’s the difference between journals and magazines?) Will newspapers be most useful? What about books? Encyclopedias?
Books will give you in-depth treatment. They are also good for topics that may not be currently discussed, but have been written about in the past. For more about finding books, see the "Finding Books" tab above.
Journals are written for researchers, scholars, and experts in a subject. They come out at least once a year, and may come out as often as once a week, so the information is often more up-to-date than that found in books. They are often "peer reviewed", which means that they have been reviewed by experts to ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date. For more about finding journals, see the "Articles" tab above.
Magazines and Newspapers are written for the general public, so technical or complex points may not be well covered. They are not peer-reviewed. They are good for current information. For more about finding magazines and newspapers, see the "Articles" tab above.
Web sites may be put out by professional organizations, and be as creditable as peer-reviewed journals, or they may be put out by someone who knows almost nothing about the subject. They may be updated daily, or not for years. Each web site must be evaluated on its own merits. See the "Evaluating Information" tab for tips on how to evaluate web sites.
For more information on deciding where you need to start, try Module 1 of Skagit Valley College’s SKILL. Go to SKILL - http://library.skagit.edu/news.asp_Q_pagenumber_E_2679 , create an account, and complete Module 1: Selecting a Source.