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ENGL 1301 - Worley: Before you start your research


Row of books in the library

Image credit:  Estefany Sanchez, Lee College. Used with permission.

Determine whether your source is credible

All information sources are not created equally -- just because an article is published in a magazine or journal does not mean that it is a credible source.  Analyze ALL your sources -- articles, websites and books -- for potential author bias, accuracy and relevance to your research topic.

This online questionnaire provides a framework for examining your sources:  Online CRAAP test

Find Background Information on Your Topic

These sources will help you find background information on your topic.  This can help you narrow your research question to a manageable size and also suggest some search terms you might use once you begin your research.

How do you know what kind of sources to look for?

Some questions to ask yourself before you start your research:

  • Do I know enough about my topic to choose meaningful search terms?
    • Reference books such as encyclopedias are useful sources for learning basics about a topic before starting your research.
  • Does it matter how old your sources are?  
    • Should you use sources dating from the beginning of time to the present? 
    • Do you only want the most current information?
  • How specific is your topic? 
    • ​Are you giving a broad overview of the topic?
    • Do you need in-depth research on the topic?
  • Who counts as a credible writer on this topic?
    • Does the writer need to be an expert in the field?  What kind of credentials will prove that this person is an expert?
    • Is it okay for the writer to be a non-expert who cites his/her sources well?

Types of writing

Subject Librarian