Guidelines for Doing Research

Doing Library Research

Make use of the Big6 problem solving method to do your library research.

  1. Task definition
  2. Information Seeking Strategies
  3. Location and Access
  4. Use of Information
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

At the library, information may be found at the
  • Reference Department
  • Reserves
  • West Indian Collection
  • Open Stacks
  • Periodicals Department
  • Carter Library

  1. Task Definition

    Begin with the Reference department. Define words and terms in your research problem. Ensure that you understand what the question is asking of you. Make use of dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, guides and handbooks.

  2. Information Seeking Strategies

    Based on the requirements of your research question, figure out how you will find this information. Will you find it in a book, in a journal, on a company’s website, in an interview? Does the question require current information, historical information, local information?

  3. Location and Access

    Figure out where you will get the information sources that you have identified. Will you find them at the Reference department, Reserves, West Indian Collection, Open Stacks, Periodicals, or the Carter Library? How will you find them? Perfect! Make use of the library’s catalogues; the manual catalogue and the Online Catalogue (hyperlink to the Online Catalogue). Beside each source, write its location, that is, the call number and the department where you would find it. REF (Reference), OS (Open Stacks), PER (Periodicals), WIND (West Indian Collection), RES (Reserve Book Collection), CARTER (Carter Library). If you use the Internet write down the name of the website you visited and the URL (web address). Make use of the Electronic Resources (hyperlink to Electronic Resources) provided or recommended on the library’s website. After you have found these information sources, how will you get to the information that you need?
    • Books: Look at the index or table of contents for your topic and keywords
    • Periodicals: use index
    • Encyclopedias: Use the index volume (usually the last volume in the set) for the topic and keywords
    • Databases (subscribed to by the library): Type topic and keywords in the search box. Ask your librarian for help if needed.
    • Web sites: use topic and keywords in subject directories.
    How to read call numbers in an academic library

    Libraries use classification systems to organize the books on the shelves. A classification system uses letters and/or numbers (call numbers) to arrange the books so that books on the same topic are together. This arrangement results in "serendipitous browsing:" you find one book in the catalog, go to the shelf, and, an even better book is sitting right next to it.

    The Hiram S. Walters Resource Centre uses the Library of Congress Classification System (LC) like most academic libraries.

    Anatomy of a Library of Congress Call Number

    Book title: Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam
    Author: Daniel C. Hallin
    Call Number: DS559.46 .H35 1986

    The first two lines describe the subject of the book.
    DS559.45 = Vietnamese Conflict

    The third line often represents the author's last name.
    H = Hallin

    The last line represents the date of publication.

    Tips for Finding Books on the Shelf

    Read call numbers line by line.

    Read the first line in alphabetical order:
    A, B, BF, C, D... L, LA, LB, LC, M, ML...

    Read the second line as a whole number:
    1, 2, 3, 45, 100, 101, 1000, 2000, 2430...

    The third line is a combination of a letter and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically.
    Read the number as a decimal, e.g.:
    .C65 = .65 .C724 = .724

    Some call numbers have more than one combination letter-number line.

    The last line is the year the book was published. Read in chronological order:
    1985, 1991, 1992...

    Here is a shelf of books with the call number order explained.

  4. Use of Information

    Read, listen or view your source. Look for subheadings and topic sentences (read the first sentences in each paragraph) that will take you to your information. Take out the relevant information from a source.

  5. Synthesis

    Organize information from multiple sources. You may write a rough draft, create an outline, create a storyboard, or make a sketch.

    Present the information
    • Follow the guidelines given to you.
    • Add value to your paper by including your ideas along with the information you found.
    • Include a bibliography or citation list.
  6. Evaluation

    Judge your paper (how effective were you?). Before turning in your assignment, compare it to the requirements that your lecturer gave you. Did you do everything and include all that was required for the assignment? Did you give credit to all of your sources, written in the way your lecturer requested? Is your work complete? Would you be proud for anyone to view this work?

    Judge your information problem-solving process (how efficient were you?). Think about the actions that you performed working on your assignment. Did you learn some things that you can use again? How will you use the skill(s) again? What did you do well this time? What would you do differently next time? What information sources did you find useful? You may be able to use them again. What information sources did you need but did not have? Be sure to talk to a librarian about getting them.


Documentation Styles

American Psychological Association (APA)
  • APA (American Psychological Association) is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 5th edition of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page.
APA General Format
  • Your essay should be typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5 X 11 inches) with margins of 1 inch on all sides. Your final essay should include, in the order indicated below, as many of the following sections as are applicable, each of which should begin on a separate page.
  • Create your list of references on its own page after the last page of your text. Center the title References one inch from the top of the page. Double space. Alphabetize the list of references by the last name of the authors. If the work has no author or editor, alphabetize the work by the first word of the title (excluding A, An, or The).
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Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • The Modern Language Association (MLA) Style is widely used for identifying research sources. In MLA style you briefly credit sources with parenthetical citations in the text of your paper, and give the complete description of each source in your Works Cited list.
  • MLA style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and using the English language in writing. Writers who properly use MLA also build their credibility by demonstrating accountability to their source material.
  • MLA citation includes both In-Text Citation and a List of Works Cited.
    • In MLA style, referring to the works of others in your text is done by using the parenthetical citation. Immediately following a quotation from a source or a paraphrase of a source's ideas, you place the author's surname followed by a space and the relevant page number(s).
    • According to MLA style, you must have a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. All entries in the Works Cited page must correspond to the works cited in your main text.
For more information visit:

Evaluating Information Sources

Criteria for Evaluation
It is necessary to learn how to evaluate the quality of information you find on the Internet as well as other information resources such as books, magazines, CD-ROM, and television. One should be skeptical of everything found. Compare and contrast different information resources. Ask yourself the following questions:

Who says? Know the author.

  • Who created this information and why?
  • Do you recognize this author or their work?
  • What knowledge or skills do they have in the area?
  • Is he or she stating fact or opinion?
  • What else has this author written?
  • Does the author acknowledge other viewpoints and theories?

Is the information biased? Think about perspective.
  • Is the information objective or subjective?
  • Is it full of fact or opinion?
  • Does it reflect bias? How?
  • How does the sponsorship impact the perspective of the information?
  • Is a balance of perspectives represented?
  • Could the information be meant as humorous, a parody, or satire?

Is the information authentic? Know the source.
  • Where does the information originate?
  • Is the information from an established organization?
  • Has the information been reviewed by others to insure accuracy?
  • Is this a primary source or secondary source of information?
  • Are original sources clear and documented?
  • Is a bibliography provided citing the sources used?

Is this information accurate? Consider the origin of the information.
  • Are the sources truth worthy? How do you know?
  • Who is sponsoring this publication?
  • Does the information come from a school, business, or company site?
  • What's the purpose of the information resource: to inform, instruct, persuade, sell? Does this matter?
  • What's their motive?

Is the information current? Consider the currency and timeliness of the information.
  • Does the page provide information about timeliness such as specific dates of information?
  • Does currency of information matter with your particular topic?
  • How current are the sources or links?

Is the information helpful? Think about whether you need this information.
  • Does the information contain the breadth and depth needed?
  • Is the information written in a form that is useable (i.e. reading level, technical level)?
  • Is the information in a form that is useful such as words, pictures, charts, sounds, or video?
  • Do the facts contribute something new or add to your knowledge of the subject?
  • Will this information be useful to your project?

Is this information worth the effort? Think about the organization and speed of information access.
  • Is the information well-organized including a table of contents, index, menu, and other easy-to-follow tools for navigation?
  • Is the information presented in a way that is easy to use (i.e., fonts, graphics, headings)?
  • Is the information quick to access?


It is important to evaluate the information you find on web pages, but it is also important to evaluate information found in books and journal articles. Critical evaluation of your sources of information has always been a fundamental component of research, no matter in which format the information is presented or published. Some of the fundamental questions to consider during evaluation are:

Note that authors may be individuals or organizations.

  • Who is the author? Besides knowing his or her name, look for information on the author on the book cover or introduction, or in sidebars or footnotes for journal articles.
  • What are the author's credentials (degrees, positions, honors)? You can use library catalogs and periodical indexes to try to find out what else the author has written.
  • If the author is an organization, what can you find out about this organization? For example, what is its purpose?
  • Reference librarians can help teach you how to find this kind of information using the library. Don't expect everything to be on the web.

Knowing the reputation of a publisher is as important as knowing something about the author.

  • Who is the publisher? What else have they published? Do they have specific types of topics or fields in which they specialize?
  • Know the differences between scholarly publishers (such as university presses and scholarly associations) and commercial publishers, government agencies, and other types of publishers.
  • Self-publishing one's own works is often called "vanity" publishing. The work usually lacks any kind of outside editing or review.
  • Consider whether it makes a difference which type of publisher has presented the work in question.

Peer Review
Subject experts, judge the quality and accuracy of submitted writings before they're published.

  • Scholarly works - both books and research articles - undergo extensive editing and review, often by a panel of experts and editors, before they're published. Any editorial questions must be resolved by the author before the work can be accepted for publication.
  • Edited works and research journals generally will list the names of the editors or editorial board who are responsible for reviewing materials before they're published. If there are editors listed for the work you're consulting, who are they, and what are their credentials?
  • Peer-review and editing is an attempt to control the quality and the accuracy of publications. Works that do not meet the standards of a given publisher, a peer-reviewed journal, or an editor are not accepted for publication.

An author's purpose should be clear. Sometimes authors try to present opinion as fact in order to sell or persuade.

  • Does the book / journal article present fact or opinion?
  • What is its purpose? To inform? To sell? To persuade?
  • Is the material objective, showing multiple sides of an issue? Bias is not necessarily reason to reject a source - but be sure that you can identify it.
  • Who is the intended audience? Advanced researchers in a field? Elementary school students? Members of a particular organization or viewpoint?

Consider the information presented in the work, and how it is organized.

  • Is the coverage of the topic complete? Does it leave out important information?
    Is the approach basic or advanced? Does it offer more than one perspective?
  • Research articles and scholarly books should include bibliographies, or lists of works consulted. Consider the length, detail, and accuracy of the bibliography in relation to the work in question. Does the bibliography seem comprehensive, or are just a few sources mentioned?

Consider whether the information is what you need for your purposes.

  • Does the book / journal article cover the topic you need?
    Is that coverage sufficient, or is it too superficial (or too detailed) for your purposes?
  • Any particular book or journal article can be a wonderful source for some purposes, but not relevant for others. Consider what you need the information for, and

Verify information before you use it in your own research or class assignments.

  • Is the book or article well written and well-edited? Are there noticeable mistakes in spelling or grammar? Is it written in a style that you would expect for the topic and audience?
  • In research books and articles, is there a bibliography, or footnotes, or other means of listing sources the author consulted?

Know when your information was published, and decide whether this makes a difference.

  • When was the book or article written? When was it published? Is the information still current or valid? If the information is no longer current, does it still have value for your needs?
  • Know the difference between current, dated, and outdated information, as well as those sources considered "classics" in your field. Different disciplines will have different needs as to the importance of currency versus older, established publications and materials.
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