DECONSTRUCT your topic to uncover its complexities. Another term for deconstructing a research question is 'concept mapping;' see the Rhode Island School of Design Library's excellent slide show Concept Mapping for a visual tutorial (a PowerPoint presentation).
Select a style manual for bibliographic citations (see Citation Styles for more information), follow its recommendations for form, and thoroughly cite every source you use. It will save you time when you are trying to locate materials and compile your bibliography or footnotes.
Select a topic. If your topic is too broad, you will find more information than you can retrieve. If it is too narrow, you will find very little information.
Get an overview of your topic by consulting an encyclopedia:
Note key words or subject terms which can be used in your search. Also look for bibliographies at the end of encyclopedia articles. They will lead you to additional sources of information. For unknown or obscure words and terms, and for related subject terms use dictionaries:
To identify lists of books and/or articles already gathered by some previous researcher, check for the availability ofbibliographies on your subject. Search OskiCat by doing a keyword search on “bibliograph* AND (your general topic). Example: “bibliograph* architect* (Rome OR Roman)”. If there are no specialized bibliographies on your topic, check the indexes or table of contents of more general subject bibliographies, e.g.
Refine your topic. Using sources gathered so far, clarify the scope and depth of the subject or problem you wish to research.
Search for books and periodical articles on your topic.
Journals provide more up-to-date and specialized information than books. Use relevant terms or keywords found in the steps above, or identified in the thesaurus accompanying some periodical indexes, to look in appropriate periodical and newspaper indexes for citations and/or abstracts. Once you have identified a list of articles, use UC e-Links (video tutorial) or check the library catalogs to determine availability and location. For additional resources, see:
Books: Searching Authors or Titles. Using authors or designers or titles you found through the steps above, search the Library catalogs:
Books: Searching Subject. Begin with keyword searches in OskiCat and the Melvyl catalogs; then search on the appropriate Library of Congress subject headings in the bibliographic record. For a comprehensive list of Library of Congress Subject Headings (video tutorial), see Library of Congress Authorities.
Footnotes and Bibliographies. For additional sources check the footnotes and bibliographies of the books and articles which you found most useful.
After locating periodical articles and books, you are ready to evaluate the resources you have found so far. Use Critical Evaluation of Resources to help determine suitable material for your research.
Consider additional sources to supplement your findings, such as Maps, Images, Archival sources etc.
Biographical sources should be consulted for information on names discovered in your search. Specialized materials concentrate on biographies of famous people according to gender, geographic area, ethnic background, occupation, etc. Many have bibliographies and lists of a person's works. For more information see:
Book Review Indexes help evaluate material and can be found at Book and Film Review Databases.
Statistical Sources provide facts and statistics. Check sources for Statistics and Numeric Data on the Library's homepage.
U.S. Government Documents, as well as local and foreign government publications, cover a broad range of topics. Consult the following websites for assistance.
Dissertations are indexed by keyword and broad subject categories and are usually available through interlibrary loan or purchase if not in the UCB Library. To search for dissertations on your topic search use:
Exhibition Catalogs are indexed by subject in the library catalogs and widely available. Many art indexes and databases also include citations for exhibition catalogs. For a list of art indexes see:
Art Indexes (indexes for Art Historians)
Other sources include non-book material, such as Images; Videos; Conference Proceedings; Patents; Oral Histories; Archival Materials; Organizations; and Personal Interviews, to name a few. Consult a reference librarian for more information.
For information on citations, style manuals, and writing research papers or dissertations, additional information, we recommend the sources below, which are available in most campus libraries or in book stores. For more information consult with a librarian.