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Library-related resources for UCI students, faculty and staff interested in the field of education.
URL: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/education

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Tips for Starting Research

The research process can be daunting. Where do you start? Research is an iterative process - research questions may evolve as you dive into the scholarly literature or explore how your topic is currently framed in the news; if your project involves collecting data, your literature review may take different shapes as you determine prominent themes.

Below are a few tips and strategies to get started. UCI Libraries also has a few self-paced tutorials to stimulate your thinking and support you as you work through your research process.

  • Brainstorm your topic: What sub-topics are you interested in? Are you looking at the topic through a specific framework or through a specific lens? Are you interested in the topic during a specific time frame? Are you exploring how a particular population of people connect to this topic? What are some keywords/phrases useful to search this topic? Check out this Concept Mapping tutorial as you brainstorm your topic.
  • Types of information: Decide what kind of information you're looking for. Different types of sources will offer different perspectives, and you might need to search in different places to discover these different types sources.
    • Books and Encyclopedias can offer broad overviews or historical context
    • Scholarly journal articles can offer empirical evidence or more focus on a specific intervention or population
    • Popular newspapers/media such as New York Times can offer societal context
    • Consult the various menu tabs on this guide for suggested places to search for overviews, journal articles, statistics, and news.
  • Outline your topic: You may need different types of sources for different parts of your project (e.g. an encyclopedia for your Introduction; scholarship for your Literature Review) and you might need to combine different search terms for different sections of your project. An outline helps you organize what sources and information you have to support each section of your paper or project.
  • Search numerous places: You can play around with different keyword combinations in Google Scholar and try searches in UC Library Search. A regular web search can lead you to recent news or advocacy organization reports on the topic. Check out these tutorials on Choosing Keywords a creating Boolean searches, which can help you string similar or different concepts together.
  • Use bibliographies to your advantage: Oftentimes if you find a few good sources, their bibliographies can lead you to more material on your topic. See the Efficiency Tips box below for additional strategies.
  • Start a Bibliography page ASAP: By creating a Works Cited or References document right away, you can keep a list of all the sources you intend to use, and also be ready to include in-text citations as you start synthesizing your sources in your paper. Check out the Citation Management tab on the menu above for more information about citations.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches for scholarly literature in a simple, familiar way. You can search across many disciplines and sources at once to find articles, books, theses, court opinions, and content from academic publishers, professional societies, some academic web sites, and more. See the Google Scholar inclusion guidelines for more about what’s in Google Scholar.

Efficiency Strategies

When you find a promising resource, try the following strategies to find additional material:

  • In books, use the Table of Contents to determine if one or two chapters might be useful. You don't have to use the whole book in your project.
  • Browse the References list at the end of a chapter or article to find additional sources.
  • Copy/paste the article title into Google Scholar and use the "Cited by" feature at the bottom of each citation to find more recent material.
  • Always read the Abstract to determine if an article might be useful in your research

Librarian for Interdisciplinary Studies

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Melissa Beuoy
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