Research Tips

1.  Keep a research journal.  Write down the words you used to find something, where you found it (which database? Catalog? Internet?), or print out the search screen with your search terms.  You might think you’ll remember these things, but you won’t, and then you’ll be annoyed at yourself for not remembering.

2. Look at and use the bibliography/list of works cited/references of the sources you use.  Whether using a journal article, book, encyclopedia or web page, look at the bibliography of resources the author used to write the article/book/web page to see if there is anything there that will help you.  If so, put the title of the book in the catalog to see if we own it.  Put the title of the journal in the Journals by Title search to see if we own the journal. If we don’t use the Interlibrary Loan service to get it. (See below).

  • Tip:  If you see an author’s name mentioned over and over again, that should be a clue to you that this person is an expert in the field.  Put that person’s name in as a search to find more research they’ve done in their area of expertise.
  • Tip:  If you see the same book or article mentioned over and over again in bibliographies/lists of work cited, look in the library’s catalog or list of journal/newspaper titles to see if the library owns that particular book or article.  This book or journal article is probably considered to be very important in the area in which you are researching.  If the library does not own it, order it using the library’s interlibrary loan service. (See number 5 below.)

3.  Begin creating your bibliography/list of works cited/reference list as soon as you use your first source. Create another Word document, and begin dropping in all the complete citations you’ve used along the way.  You’ll be very glad you did this when you don’t have to create this piece of your research project at the very end.  You might even want to consider using a citation manager such as Zotero, which may be found on most campus computers.

4.  If you use the citation builders, be aware that mistakes are made.  Citation builders are everywhere now – Word has one, many of the databases and the catalogs have them built in, and several are available on the Citing Sources page.  They’re wonderful to use, but often they include mistakes in the format of the citation.  Always check your citations against the official manual for the style you’re using, or use one of the Penfield guides. 

5.  Sign up for the Interlibrary Loan service.  Get good stuff we don’t own from other libraries, but plan ahead to do this.  It will take several days (sometimes up to a week) to get something delivered from another library to you.  Sign up at:

6.  Ask for help sooner rather than later.  We love to help people with their research – that’s what we do.  But- we can’t help you very well when you ask 2 days before the major paper is due.  Plan your time to be able to get and use the sources you need.  You might want to try using the Assignment Calculator at to help you get and stay organized.

7.  Use the Lake Effect Research Challenge – a tutorial to help you learn good research techniques.  Available online via the link, learn more about doing research on your own underneath "Ask A Librarian".  (

8.  Use the YouTube videos- these videos are very short (approximately 2 minutes), and discuss topics such as primary sources, evaluating information, developing keywords for searching, research strategies, etc.  They may be found by clicking the YouTube icon on the library’s homepage, or by going to

9.  Use the Writing Center.  The Writing Center is located on the first floor of the library.  Walk-in help is available as well as appointments.  Please see the following link for more information: