The hub of all library research basics and resources, from video and interactive tutorials to past webinars.
The hub of all library research basics and resources, from video and interactive tutorials to past webinars.
The General Library Research Tutorial consists of 6 modules designed to help you develop your information-seeking and evaluation skills. The tutorial takes approximately 1 hour and can be completed in several sessions.
The General Library Research Tutorial prepares students to:
Use our Chat with a Librarian button on the Library website to contact us when you need help finding peer-reviewed sources, using databases effectively, and more.
Librarians are also available in-person, by email, or by virtual appointment. To schedule a virtual appointment, use our Research Consultation Request Form.
You have two main Library accounts:
The Library provides access to journals, magazines, and newspapers. While some are available in print or microform formats, the vast majority are available online through the Library’s research databases. You can access Library databases on or off campus.
Find the full list of our databases on our Academic Databases page.
To search multiple databases at the same time, use the “BenSearch” and “EBSCO Articles” search boxes on the Library homepage.
Sometimes, databases don’t provide the full text of the article you need. In that case, look for the Find Full Text button. If you see this button while searching a database, use it to discover if the full text of the article is available in a different database that we subscribe to.
Watch this short video to learn more about database searching:
Search BenSearch to find print books, eBooks, DVDs, streaming videos, CDs, and other physical and electronic materials. Use the search box in the “BenSearch” or “Books & Videos” tab on the Library homepage.
In this search for the term “human genome,” eBooks have an “Available Online” link and print books have a call number, which you can use to find the book on the shelf.
When you know exactly which journal, magazine, or newspaper you’re looking for, click Search Journals By Title in the BenSearch tab on the Library homepage. This will bring you to a webpage where you can enter the journal title (not the article title) to find out if the Library subscribes to it and, if so, how to access it.
Watch this short video to learn how to search for journals by title.
If the BenU Library doesn’t have an article or book you need, you can request a copy at no cost to you through interlibrary loan. Interlibrary loan, or ILL for short, is the loaning of items between libraries. Click “Interlibrary Loan” in the menu bar on the Library website to access our two ILL services.
For more information visit this page.
Some professors place course readings on reserve. To access Course Reserves, click the “Course Reserves” button on the Library homepage. Then, search for your course by course name, course number, or your professor’s last name, or search for the item by title.
Students are allotted $50.00 per semester for printing, which equates to 500 black and white double-sided pages. When you print to a campus printer, the cost of your print job is automatically deducted from your PaperCut account. If you exceed the $50.00 allotment, you can add money to your account.
The Library in Gillett Hall has:
Printing is free for current BenU students.
A search strategy is an organized plan for gathering information. Developing a search strategy will help you locate appropriate information from a variety of sources.
Choose a topic that interests you and that isn’t too broad or too narrow.
|Too Broad||Too Narrow|
|Topics that are too broad have hundreds of books and articles written about them.
Example: Drug abuse
|Topics that are too narrow have nothing or only one or two articles written about them.
Example: The effect of drug abuse on the athletic performance of 18-year-old hockey players in Argentina
Keep in mind that your topic isn’t set in stone. As you read background information and search for sources, you can use what you learn to better define and focus your topic.
Watch this short video to learn how to narrow or broaden your topic.
Find background information in subject encyclopedias and textbooks. Use what you learn to define and focus your topic. The bibliographies, or lists of references, in these sources can serve as excellent starting points, since they include books and articles that are not only relevant, but also authoritative. You can find encyclopedias in BenSearch.
An important step in the initial analysis of any research topic is identifying the topic’s central ideas, or main concepts. Typically, a research topic contains 2 to 4 main concepts.
Topic: The effect of playing video games on aggressive behavior in teenagers.
|Concept 1||Concept 2||Concept 3|
|video games||aggressive behavior||teenagers|
Once you’ve identified the main concepts, generate a list of search terms, or keywords and key phrases, under each concept. Consider synonyms (e.g., “teenagers” and “adolescents”), related terms, broader terms, and more specific terms.
|MAIN CONCEPTS:||video games||aggressive behavior||teenagers|
|SEARCH TERMS:||video games
video game consoles
wrestling video games
Notice that we didn’t include the word “effect” in our search terms even though it’s part of the topic. Terms like “cause,” “effect,” “relationship,” “impact,” “purpose,” and “trends” are largely ambiguous, making them ineffective search terms. In general, overlook these kind of abstract terms.
An effective way to begin a search for information is to define your information need. Ask yourself questions such as:
Once you determine what information you need, you’re ready to select the types of sources that best fit your need.
Encyclopedias contain short, factual entries by contributors with expertise on the topic. There are two types of encyclopedias: general and subject. General encyclopedias contain concise overviews on a wide variety of topics. Subject encyclopedias provide in-depth entries focused within a single field of study. Encyclopedias are an excellent place to start your research. Use them to find background information and gather important dates, names, and concepts. You can find encyclopedias in BenSearch.
Academic books typically provide comprehensive, thorough treatment of a subject. Some academic books synthesize all information on a topic to support a particular argument or thesis. Other types of academic books have an editor and each chapter has a different author. Use books when you need to gather a lot of information on a topic, contextualize your topic, find historical information, or find summaries of research to support an argument. You can find books in BenSearch.
Scholarly journals contain articles written by experts in an academic field. Journal articles can cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research. They usually include bibliographies. For most college level research papers, you should rely heavily on scholarly articles. Use them to research your topic, learn what others have studied on your topic, and find bibliographies that direct you to other relevant research. You can find scholarly articles in the Library’s article databases.
There is a subset of scholarly journals called peer-reviewed journals. Peer-reviewed journals are the most authoritative scholarly journals. If you use articles from peer-reviewed journals, they have been vetted by scholars in the field for quality and importance.
Watch this short video to learn how peer review works.
Magazines contain articles written for the general public with the purpose of informing and entertaining. Magazines are designed to be easy to read, which can make them a good starting point when first trying to understand a topic. They can also provide a contemporary point of view and information or opinions about popular culture or current events.
Newspapers contain articles about current events and are usually published daily. Use newspapers to find current information about international, national, and local events. Also use them to identify trends in public opinion. Older issues of newspapers provide a record of past ideas, problems, and events. You can find newspapers on the open web or in the Library’s newspaper databases.
Primary sources are contemporary accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event. For example, diaries, letters, speeches, and photographs can serve as primary sources. In the sciences, primary sources are documents about original research written by the original researchers themselves. Primary sources can also include raw data, an artifact from an archeological dig, or a newspaper article written soon after an event took place.
Note the difference between primary sources and secondary sources. Secondary sources describe or analyze primary sources. Secondary sources can include encyclopedias, textbooks, reviews, and books and articles that interpret, review, or synthesize original research.
Government publications are issued by local, state, national, or international governments. Government information includes laws, regulations, statistics, consumer information, and much more. A substantial amount of government information is available online.
Use websites to find current information, company information, government information, and expert and popular opinions. Because internet sources have no quality standards, you should evaluate all information carefully to make sure it is reliable.
Company profiles often include a business description, financial statements, competitors, key employees, and more. Industry reports often include market forecasts, trends, challenges, and more.
It is important to be able to to distinguish between popular magazines and scholarly journals. Your professors will often ask you to use only scholarly journals in your project.
Popular magazines and scholarly journals are both types of periodicals, meaning they’re published periodically, that is, in regularly recurring intervals. However, they have important differences:
|Popular Magazines||Scholarly Journals|
|Examples||National Geographic||Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology|
|Author||Journalist; nonprofessional or layperson. Sometimes author is not named.||Expert (scholar, professor, researcher, etc.) in field covered. Author is always named.|
|Credits||Few or no notes or bibliographic references.||Usually includes notes and/or bibliographic references.|
|Contents||Current events; general interest.||Research (methodology, theory) from the field.|
|Style||Journalistic; easy to read.||Uses technical language.|
|Audience||General public.||Scholars or researchers in the field.|
|Review||Reviewed by editors employed by the magazine.||Usually reviewed by peer scholars not employed by the journal.|
|Appearance||Glossy; many pictures in color.||Plain; mostly text; sometimes includes black and white figures, tables, graphs, and/or charts.|
|Length||Shorter articles; provide broader overviews of topics.||Longer articles; provide in-depth analysis of topics.|
|Ads||Many, often in color.||Few or none; if any, usually for books or other professional materials.|
|Frequency||Usually weekly or monthly.||Usually monthly or quarterly.|
Watch this short video to learn more about the differences between popular and scholarly sources.
A database is a searchable collection of information. Most research databases are searchable collections of journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. Each database contains thousands of articles published in many different journals, allowing you find relevant articles faster than you would by searching individual journals.
Some databases provide the full text of articles. Others provide abstracts, or summaries, only.
Searching a Library database is different from searching the Internet.
|Examples||Google, Wikipedia||Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, OVID, ScienceDirect|
|Authority/Credentials||Anyone can publish and anyone does. Difficult to verify credentials. Results are not always scholarly.||Authority/credentials are guaranteed. Most articles are scholarly and peer-reviewed.|
|Results||Thousands. Duplicates are not filtered out. Many are not scholarly.||Hundreds or fewer. Duplicates are filtered out. You can limit to full text.|
|Relevance||Lots of “noise” because there are no subject headings assigned. Information can be biased, untrue, or irrelevant.||Databases focus on specific subjects. Offer fewer but more relevant results. Results are from scholarly publishers and authors.|
|Limiters||Can limit by document type (pdf, doc) and source (gov, org, com)||Can limit by date, language, format, peer reviewed status, full text availability, and more.|
|Stability of information||Information from the Internet is unstable. It can disappear at any time. Researchers will often be asked to pay a fee to access journal articles. (Note: These articles are available to you via the Library as part of your tuition.)||Databases are a collection of articles that have appeared in journals. This makes their status more stable than the Internet. The information is paid for by subscription to be offered as part of a student’s tuition.|
Selecting the best research databases for your topic is an important step. You need to locate databases that cover your topic within the date range you need.
Find all of our databases on the Academic Databases page (from the Library website, click “Databases” in the menu bar). Use the “Subjects” dropdown menu to select your discipline. Skim through the list of databases to learn:
Keyword searches are similar to Google searches in that the database looks for your search terms wherever they may be on a page. Keyword searches search all available fields (e.g., Title, Author, Abstract, etc.) for the keyword.
In the example record below, you can see the keywords “video games” and “aggressive behavior” in bold in every field where they appear, including the Title, Subject Terms, and Abstract fields.
Unlike keyword searches, subject searches only return results that include your search term in the subject headings field.
Many databases use a controlled vocabulary, which is a list of standardized subject headings used to index content. You can usually find the database’s controlled vocabulary in a section called subject terms or the thesaurus. Use this tool to determine which word or phrase is the one used by the database for a specific concept. For example, since “adolescents” and “teenagers” mean roughly the same thing, a database may choose to index all articles on this topic under “teenagers.” That way, a subject search for “teenagers” will also return articles about “adolescents.”
In the database Academic Search Complete, we clicked “Subject Terms” in the blue menu bar. We then browsed for the term “adolescents.” The search revealed that the preferred term in this database is “TEENAGERS.”
Databases have different interfaces and use different subject terms, but most provide both keyword and subject searching. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two search options.
|Language||Natural language. A good way to start your search.||Predefined controlled vocabulary usually found in the database’s thesaurus.|
|Flexibility||More flexible. You can combine terms in any number of ways.||Less flexible. You must know the exact controlled vocabulary term or phrase.|
|Fields Searched||Database looks for keywords anywhere in the record (title, author name, subject headings, etc.)||Database looks for subjects only in the subject heading or descriptor field, where the most relevant words appear.|
|Relevancy||Often yield many irrelevant results.||Results are usually very relevant to the topic|
Watch this video to learn more.
Place quotation marks around a phrase to search for that exact phrase. Most databases support phrase searching.
Example: A search for “United Nations” (with the quotation marks) will return only results where the two words appear together as a phrase.
For a quick demo, watch this video.
When you want to combine search terms, you will need to use the Boolean operators, or connectors. This is best done using the advanced search mode. There are three main Boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT.
Use AND to retrieve articles that mention both terms somewhere in the article. The use of AND generally will retrieve fewer but more focused results.
Example: Childhood obesity AND exercise
Use OR between two terms to retrieve articles that mention either term. The use of OR generally will retrieve a larger set of results. The OR operator is useful when searching with terms that are synonyms or convey the same concept.
Example: Cloning OR genetics OR reproduction
Use NOT to exclude terms. The use of NOT allows you to remove search results containing a specific term. The use of NOT generally will retrieve fewer but more relevant results.
Example: Eating disorders NOT anorexia
Effective use of Boolean operators is essential to sophisticated research. Watch the video to learn more about Boolean searching.
A good technique for focusing a database search is to limit your search to a specific field. Do a field-specific search when you are looking for:
Example: Search for “Eating Disorders” as a keyword; search for “Gupta” in the Author field; search “Secondary Eating Disorder” in the Title field.
Truncation is a search technique that allows you to search for all variants of a root word at the same time. Enter the root word followed by the truncation symbol. Many databases use the asterisk (*) for truncation. Others use the question mark (?). Check the Help page for the database you’re using to determine which symbol to use for truncation.
Example: The search term plagiar* will return results that include terms:
The CAARP test contains questions to ask yourself to determine the reliability of a source. The importance of the various criteria will depend on your specific topic or need.
Is the information you want to use still relevant and accurate?
Even when information is written by well-regarded scholars and published by reputable publishers (e.g., Harvard University Press), it is important to consider when it was published. For example, ask yourself: What is the nutritional information on the role of sugar in the American diet today? What was it 10 years ago?
Who wrote or produced this information? What credentials does the author have to be writing on the subject?
Reputable newspapers, like The New York Times, are usually reliable sources, but not always. OpEd/Editorial columns are opinions. Most major magazines and newspapers have these, and they aren’t necessarily backed up by facts or research. Consider who is responsible for the content. Make sure the author’s statements can be verified by other sources that have done studies to confirm these findings. The same advice goes for books, websites, and documentary films.
Do you think the information is correct?
You need to take a minute to evaluate what you are reading. Even if the author sounds convincing and the information is published in a book, on a website, in the newspaper, consider how plausible the information is. For example, The Breitbart News published the following headline: “South Korean Media Report U.S. Navy Seal Squad Training to Kill Kim Jong-un.” The source of the report was listed as a North Korean newspaper. Is the information true? Verifying with another, more trusted source would be advisable. In the era of “fake news,” verifying the accuracy of your information is important.
Is the information you’ve discovered about what you are researching?
A single topic can have many aspects. For example, if you are researching the Crusades, you might focus on the religious beliefs, the Islamic point of view, the economics of the campaigns, the role of the kings, the Catholic Church, the history of each Crusade, the geography, the sociology, or even the arms and armor. Make sure you select sources that are relevant to the specific topic you are researching.
Why was this information created?
This can be a tricky one to investigate, but it is important to check who is responsible for this information. Do they have another motive to come to a particular conclusion? Check the bottom of the page or the contact information. Many films, articles and websites publish paid content that looks and reads like regular editorially reviewed content. Make sure you analyze what you’re reading and understand that there may be a bias in the content. When in doubt, verify using the criteria outlined above.
Watch this helpful video to learn more about the CAARP test.
Like journalists, you depend on sources for information. You may read a story in the newspaper, see it on televisions, or hear it from a friend. To judge the reliability of the story, you should always consider the source. Use the following SMART test to check your sources.
For you to evaluate a source, you have to know who or what the source is. Where does the story come from? Is the person reporting the story an eyewitness to the story? Did the person get the story from others? From eyewitnesses? From officials? Trace the source down. If the source is unclear, be skeptical about the story.
Why do they say so? Sources often have a special interest or particular point of view that may cause them to slant information to suit their beliefs or causes. Biased sources can be accurate, but you need to check them carefully. Get all sides to a story.
How good is the source? Eyewitnesses can be wrong. Was the witness in a good position? If the source isn’t an eyewitness, make sure it is a source you can trust — e.g. an expert on the subject, a newspaper with good fact checking. Be wary of any source that is repeating hearsay and rumors.
Go over the story carefully. Does it make sense? Is it logically consistent? Are there any notable errors in facts or conclusions? Make a list of questionable facts. Develop questions about the story.
Double-check everything, if possible. Talk to a second party or tune-in to other newscasts to see if they are also reporting the same story. Research the subject in the library, by interviewing others, and search on the Internet. Does your two-source test confirm or contradict the story?
Source: Constitutional Rights Foundation. “Fact Finding in the Information Age.” Reproduced with permission of the Constitutional Rights Foundation.
A citation is a reference to a book, article, video, website, or other information source for the purpose of giving credit to the author. Citations also give your work more credibility because your readers can find out exactly where you got your information from. Citations typically include: author names, title, publisher, publisher location, date of publication, journal title, volume, issue, and/or page numbers. Citing your sources is a fundamental research skill.
Example book citation:
Example article citation:
We recommend watching this two-minute video.
If you use other people’s ideas without giving them credit by citing their work, you are committing plagiarism. Plagiarism is using someone else’s ideas or words and presenting them as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Plagiarism is a violation of the Benedictine University Academic Honesty Policy.
To avoid plagiarism, always provide a proper citation when you quote or paraphrase the idea of another person in your research paper, speech, slide presentation, etc. What constitutes a proper citation will depend on which citation style you’re using. You’ll learn more about citation styles later in this module.
For further information on avoiding plagiarism, see Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Plagiarism by Purdue OWL.
The Copyright Law of the United States provides legal protection for intellectual property. In your search for information, you should assume that all materials you find are copyrighted, unless the document specifies that it is public domain, which can be used freely by anyone. An information source does not have to be registered with the Copyright Office to be covered by copyright. It is copyrighted as soon as it is created.
The doctrine of fair use allows copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Fair use generally applies to nonprofit, educational purposes that do not affect the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Section 107 of the Copyright Law describes four factors to consider in deciding when fair use applies. When an information source is copyrighted, you should cite it if you quote or paraphrase it in your paper or speech.
For further information see the Copyright Act and other important documents relating to the law and its interpretation.
A citation style determines the information to include in the citation, the order of the information, the punctuation, and other formatting. Each discipline tends to use one or two citation styles. Always ask your professors which style they prefer.
Frequently-used citation styles:
For further information, see our Citation Research Guide.
There are tools available to help you generate citations. Always review citations generated by these tools to make sure they’re accurate and meet the exact formatting and punctuation guidelines of the style you’re using.
Use a citation generator when you need to build a citation but don’t need to save it long term.
Use a citation manager when you’re collecting many citations and you want to save and organize them for later use.