Robert E. Kennedy Library
Once you know what your research question is, you are ready to explore how to answer it.
To begin, it helps to know where to explore and what you're likely to find there.
PolyCAT is the Library's catalog and it contains the titles of
Note: you will not find articles in PolyCAT.
To find articles in newspapers, magazines and scholarly journals, use a database. The Library web site lists dozens of these, selected for their value to Cal Poly students.
You can find databases listed by subject or alphabetically.
Some databases, like Academic Search Elite, contain information on a wide variety of topics. Others, like AGRICOLA, focus on a single subject (agriculture) and cover it more thoroughly.
To find the best database,
My professor said I need a scholarly/peer-reviewed article for my paper. What does that mean?
There are two major types of articles:
Articles presenting original research or events related to a specific discipline that have been reviewed by experts in the subject.
Articles about current events and popular culture, opinion pieces, fiction, self-help tips written by paid journalists.
A single search can be very effective as a way to explore your research question. On the web you'll find:
The web can be very useful!
Anyone can create a web site, so the process of finding information can be less efficient and give you far more information to make it difficult to decide what is relevant, irrelevant or inaccurate.
Depending on a web site's domain, credibility can be gauged.
Use domain to help determine the credibility of the source:
On the Library's web site you will find:
What are they useful for?
How can you use them to find answers to your research question?
How you ask a question involves not only the words or phrases you enter, but the kind of search you choose to perform.
The most common types are:
Understanding the difference between these will help you find more appropriate results.
Keyword searches scan all words in the article description, including the title, abstract (summary) and author.
Subject searches scan only the subject field of a record. The subject headings or descriptors describe the main topics of each article or book.
The first step in exploring for resources on your research question is to identify the main concepts in the question.
Do this by picking out the significant terms in your question.
If you typed in all the words, you would probably find nothing or nothing relevant.
Once you have picked out the significant terms in your questions, make a list of synonyms and related terms. This list may provide additional terms and suggest ways to narrow or broaden your topic.
How does drinking affect driving?
Be flexible in planning your search strategy. Understand that language matters.
Suppose you get zero results. Remember:
Don't give up. It just means you may need to tweak your search a little.
For example you could try...
After you've explored what's available about your research question,
the next step is to gather the resources.