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Research Guides@Tufts

First-Year Writing

Tisch Library Guide to Conducting Research for First-Year Writing Classes

You need to research a topic. Now what?

Research is a process that includes several steps. Fortunately, there are some strategies that you can use to find and evaluate sources. Below you'll find an outline of the typical process that can move you from finding sources to being able to identify the types of sources you need and discover where they're located.

Remember, you probably won't find the one perfect source! Instead, you'll need to find different types of information from different source types and then synthesize the information to create an argument from evidence. And if you get stuck at any time, Ask Us!

Steps in the Research Process

  1. If you're like most people, you probably start doing research by searching Google. And that's OK!  But if you want to start by searching Google, please look at this page on Evaluating Websites before relying on your Google results.
  2. If you find Wikipedia helpful, instead of relying on it for background information and keywords, use Credo Reference or one of the other academic sources on the Getting to Know Your Topic page. For example, a simple search in Credo, such as "Inuit" will provide you with a helpful background article as well as a mind map of related terms and topics. 
  3. Combine the keywords that you find in Credo, such as Inuit AND rights AND Canada, to create a more efficient database or JumboSearch. And remember, when you're using library databases, always connect your keywords with terms like "and" and "or" in order to get better results. For example, this search: Inuit AND Canada AND rights will produce results that include all three concepts. If you're curious, there are also lots of advanced search strategies that you can use.
  4. Limit your results to find what you need more quickly. For example, keep your eye in the column on the left side of the JumboSearch results page. At the top of the column, under "Availability," you can click the link marked Full Text Online to eliminate print materials from your results. Once you've limited to online resources only, you can use the limiters on the left side of the page to choose what type of information you need: A book? A scholarly journal article? A newspaper article? What's the difference?
  5. If you need the type of information you find in a book, select Books under Resource Type on the left side of the page. If you don't see Books (or another resource type) in the list, click the Show More link to see them. Once you've selected a Book on your topic, click the title to find out more about it. Scroll down the page to see a summary and the table of contents. If it looks interesting for your project, click "Online access" underneath the title or the link next to "Full text available at" to open the eBook or write down the call number to find the book in the library.
  6. If you need to find a scholarly journal article, click the link marked "Peer Reviewed Journals" under "Availability" on the left side of your results page. Once you've located an article of interest, click the title to find out more about it. Scroll down the page to see a list of subjects associated with that article. If it looks relevant for your project, click "Full text available" underneath the title to open up a complete copy of the article.
  7. Be sure to cite your sources! Consult the Citation Support guide for help understanding why we cite, links to print and online guides for the most commonly-used citation styles, and librarian-recommended tools that will make formatting your bibliographies easier.
  8. And most importantly, don't hesitate to ask us! Contact your librarian directly to ask a question or make a virtual appointment. You can also chat with a librarian from 9am-9pm Monday-Friday or send the library an email and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Four Steps to Help You Move from Developing a Topic to Writing an Essay