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Library Research Process: Searching for Information


Getting Started

Searching for information is a process. You will begin by identifying search terms you think are the most likely to help you find the best results. By repeatedly using those terms in different resources you will identify whether those terms are working for you. You might identify other terms along this path that are broader or narrower. Once you settle on the correct terms you will continue to search different resources because there is no one perfect resource that fits any topic. 

You might need to search an encyclopedia, a biographical dictionary, a newspaper database, and a discipline-specific database to feel comfortable that you have search all the locations for your topic.  The process can be quite time-consuming just to gather the information for your topic.  It's important to think about what possible types of resources might help you and then search in all those places with your search terms.

The Library offers a number of search engines, known as databases, to help you find academic information efficiently. Most databases will help you find journal articles, while others search reference books, newspaper or magazine articles, images, or even maps. Choosing the right search tool is important.

Search tools...beyond Google

Go to the library website for a complete list of the library's databases. The following are good ones to start with: 

  • Academic Search Premier: Search for scholarly or popular articles on any topic.  Click on the "full text" link to read the whole article. 
  • Newsbank: Search for newspaper articles in local and national newspapers
  • Opposing Viewpoints: Search for reports on controversial issues and general topics.

Tips and Tricks


1) Make sure you know what kinds of information your teacher requires or will accept.  Articles?  Books?  Music?  Interviews?

2) Be aware of different search tools that can help you find information.  The library has access to information that is not available on the open web.  It's okay if you don't know how to search using these library tools....they work differently from Google...ASK FOR HELP.

3) Don't give up if the library doesn't have  the article you want or the book you need.  Interlibrary loan is a system that allows patrons to borrow materials from other libraries.  It's a free service and most items arrive in less than a week. Talk to your librarian about getting resources from other libraries.

4) Know where to ask for help if you get stuck or need more assistance.  Librarians are trained information professionals.  It's our job to help people find and access information. 


Now that you're familiar with some search tools,  let's see how to use them.  You have been assigned a paper on exploring some aspect of college students lives. Let's say you've narrowed down your topic and have decided to look for information about the impact of stress or anxiety on college students.  Your professor wants you to find a book or two and some articles in magazines scholarly journals.  Remember, that searching in the library catalog and databases is a little different than searching in Google. 

Step by step: Searching for books by topic 

1) Go to the library website and click on the Library Catalog

2) Type in couple of keywords, i.e. "high school students" and "stress"  (note: just type in a word or two.  typing too many words will confuse the catalog)

3) Look for the call number and availability of the titles....(Check your library locations...) 

Step by step: Searching for articles in a database:

1) Go to your library website and click on Badgerlink...

2) Go to Academic Search Premier

2) type in "high school students" and "stress"

3) Click on the "full text" link if available....If not, click on "Find the article" or "Get a copy"......


For More Help...

Librarians can help you find documents that support your research topic.

A librarian can suggest ways to narrow your topic, while finding sources, by brainstorming keywords and search strategies. 

Librarians can help you use the library's catalog and databases. 

A librarian can help you become a savvy user of Google, so that you can use it faster and better.