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- You know very little about your research topic, not even the common terms that refer to it
- You find it difficult to search in the library catalogue and journal databases without having some good background information first
For a quick check, try Google and Wikipedia first to find some background information on your topic. These web resources are not acceptable in a university level research. Do not cite them in your work.
Finding and searching an appropriate encyclopedia can be time-consuming.
This shows you how to find background information on a given topic, and how to use it as a bridge to scholarly information in books.
- you want to do research on the woman after whom the programming language ADA was named
- you know that she is sometimes described as "the first programmer"
- Go to Google
- Enter search terms: Ada "first programmer" and search
- The 1st entry, Ada Lovelace (from Wikipedia), refers to her as "the world's first computer programmer"
- It confirms that you have the correct person
Go to the library catalogue, to search on Ada Lovelace
Check the results:
- the page contains some interesting biographical information
- it links to more information about Ada under Notes, References, and External Links, which could lead to more credible & authoritative sources of information, such as books & articles
- consult the books, check their bibliographies for more information
- if more information is needed, search the catalogue and Research & journal databases for articles
Demonstration: Journal articles
This shows you how to find background information on a given topic, and how to use it as a bridge to scholarly articles.
- you want to do research on the environmental and pollution aspects of an accident with chemicals that occurred in Seveso, Italy
- you don't know when the accident happened or what the chemicals were
- first, search for more information, like the date of the accident and the chemicals involved
Tip: Determining the year when this accident occurred will be useful when you search for journal articles, since it will help identify the relevant research & journal databases.
- Go to Google
- Enter search terms: accident chemical Seveso and search
- The 1st entry, Seveso disaster (from Wikipedia), informs you that the accident occurred in 1976, and that the accident involved the release of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), which is a polychlorinated dibenzodioxyn
- You now have two additional pieces of information. Use them to search for articles in Research & journal databases.