Task: You have 5 hours to research everything under the sun for a 10-page paper.
Problem: You have no clue where to start your research.
1. Google it, DUH!
The reason people tell you start any research project on Google is because Google will probably have everything you are looking for. Of course, using Wikipedia as a source in your paper is not acceptable; but have you ever scrolled down to the reference section on a Wikipedia page? That’s a good starting point for your research project.
2. Government Pages
Another great resource for your research is government websites. Trying to find out the current state of U.S-China relations? Look here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/18902.htm
Did you notice the links the article had on the bottom? Wohoo – more resources!
Also, government websites are particularly helpful for statistics. Another great website for stats is Gap Minder.
3. Academic journals
Your professor probably recommended “peer-reviewed” articles for your paper. How do you find them?
- Scan your email for a username and password that gives you access to JSTOR or HeinOnline. Most universities will give you free access to academic journals.
- If you don’t have access, try free resources like SSRN, Google Scholar, PLOS, DOAJ, IPL, or U.S. Library of Congress.
4. Use Blogs
Blogs can be particularly helpful to break down complex information. Say you are looking to understand a recent Supreme Court decision but are unable to comprehend the 20-page judgment. Look for a blog that broke down the judgment for you and then go back and attempt to read the judgment again. With your recently acquired simplified understanding, you will be surprised by how quickly you can get through the judgment and actually understand it this time around.
5. Local or College Library
What’s cool about libraries is that you can simply walk up to the librarian and explain what you are looking for. She will then pull out the library catalogue to find the most relevant books or journals. Steps 1 to 4 were just magically done for you!
6. What’s in front of you?
- Look at your textbook and lecture notes. Get in touch with someone who took the class last year and see what they wrote in a similar assignment (if they got an A+, you now know what a good paper looks like.)
- Set up a meeting with your TA or professor to discuss the assignment. Ask them if a specific resource is preferred over another.