Librarians and staff at the Pratt Institute Libraries are here to help you do research, find information and become “information literate.” Being information literate means you are able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use the information effectively.
The following ten steps outline a simple strategy for finding information for a research paper and documenting the sources you find. Depending on your topic and your familiarity with the library, you might need to reorganize or recycle these steps. Use this outline as needed. We are here to help you at every step in your research, so visit, email or call us.
State your topic as a question and identify the main concepts, terms or keywords in your question. For example, if you want to find out about temporary architecture you could pose the question, “how is temporary architecture being designed and used?”
Look up terms and keywords (e.g., “temporary architecture” or “temporary buildings”) in the indexes to general and subject encyclopedias, and read articles in these encyclopedias to set the context. Check the bibliographies at the end of the encyclopedia entry, and note relevant books or articles listed.
Now that you have some background information, refine your topic even further. For example, you could narrow the broad topic of temporary architecture and research site-specific temporary architecture in the United States. Refining your topic will make your next research steps easier!
Do you want to use books, articles in magazines/journals, multimedia (online or on DVD)?
Use keyword and subject searching to increase or decrease results for narrow and/or complex search topics. Write down the citation (author, title, etc.) and the location information (call number and library).
Compose a thesis statement. Using the sources you found, develop your own ideas based in the information. Use quotations from these sources minimally, and to emphasize your own ideas.
Always cite your sources. Avoid plagiarism (knowingly representing the work of others as your own). Be aware of copyright in materials you both use and make, and if you publish articles, make art, or post images online, protect your work (see options for licensing your work on the Creative Commons website).
Citing a work: