Choose a topic.
Do a brain dump: Note down what you already know about your topic, including
Fill in the gaps in your knowlege: get background information from encyclopedias or other secondary sources. Wikipedia can be good here.
Select the best places/ databases to find information on your topic. Look under the History Databases tab of this guide for article database suggestions. Or use a catalog like Oskicat or Melvyl to search for books and other resources.
Use nouns from your brain dump as search terms.
Evaluate what you find. Change search terms to get closer to what you really want.
Refine Your Topic - Using the information you have gathered, determine if your research topic should be narrower or broader. You may need to search basic resources again using your new, focused topics and keywords.
Take a look this short tutorial on beginning your research for more ideas.
Unsure how to start a paper or research project? Think maybe you could stand to brush up on search strategies?
If this sounds familiar, Library Workshop: Research 101 has you covered. This interactive tutorial explores six stages of the research process. You can view it from start to finish, or focus on specific sections as needed:
Starting strategies from choosing a topic to search keywords.
The publication timeline, scholarly v. popular sources, and differences in academic disciplines.
Search for books and other items in OskiCat, Cal's local library catalog.
Locate and access articles in library research databases.
Common techniques for constructing searches that yield useful results.
Specialized search strategies for targeting specific topics.
Book a 30-minute appointment with a librarian who will help refine and focus research inquiries, identify useful online and print sources, and develop search strategies for humanities and social sciences topics (examples of research topics).
Schedule, view, edit or cancel your appointment online (CalNetID required)
This service is for Cal undergraduates only. Graduate students and faculty should contact the library liaison to their department or program for specialized reference consultations.
Since the UC Berkeley Libraries have a world-class collection used by scholars who speak and read many languages, you may see many non-English titles in your search results. If you prefer to see only English-language materials, you can limit your search results in OskiCat or Melvyl by language.
In OskiCat: After you search, click on either the Modify Search or Sort/Limit Results buttons near the top of the page. Under Languages, select English on the pull-down menu, then click the Submit button. (You can also select more than one language by holding down the Ctrl key on a PC, or the Command key on a Mac.)
In Melvyl: After you search, look for the "refine your search" sidebar () on the left side of your search results page. Scroll down to see an option to limit your results by language.