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Getting Started with Library Research

Getting Started with Library Research

The research process can seem daunting when you are not familiar with it. It involves exploration and analysis using a variety of tools and often requires you to revise some of your work. Research normally involves using resources that you can access only with your UMass Global sign-on through the library's paid subscriptions, in addition to using some free resources. This process is time-consuming, is not linear, and will engage your critical thinking skills. There are no perfect sources for any assignment. When starting a new research project, you should allow plenty of time to learn the library's resources, meet with a librarian, analyze the material you find, and build in time for revision. This guide will help you develop a starting strategy for conducting research.

To prepare for a research project, you should have an idea of the topic you want to explore. At the beginning of the research process, you don't need the topic to be too specific, but more detail can improve your search results. Along with your general topic idea, you should make a list of all of the people, places, events, dates, and terms associated with it. You will use these words to search library databases.

You will need your UMass Global username and password in order to use many of the library's resources, which cannot be accessed for free anywhere but through the library's website. This is the same login information used for your UMass Global email account. 

You can get started with your research by doing some preliminary searching using the library's Global Search tool. However, to make your research more precise and effective, you should also learn to do the following:

Create a Research Plan

You might find it useful to discuss your project with a librarian before you begin. A librarian can help you narrow your list of search terms, point you to the best resources for your work, and suggest some steps you can take to find the material you need quickly. You can schedule an appointment on the UMass Global Library's Ask a Librarian page. 

In general, your plan should include:

The links on this page will help you learn these skills.

Do a Preliminary Search

If you are reasonably familiar with the research process, are just exploring possibilities, or just want to get acquainted with library resources, you can get started by doing the following:

  • Go to the UMass Global Library homepage.
  • Enter your search terms into the search box under Start Your Research. This allows you to explore many of the library's resources (though not all) at once. 
  • Click Search.
  • If prompted, login with your UMass Global e-mail and password (the same password as Blackboard and the student portal.)

Save Your Work and Keep Track of It

As you research, be sure to save your work. You'll want to keep track of your search strategy and which database tools you used, and save copies of book chapters and articles you find, even if you think they might not be immediately useful. It can be quite frustrating to forget the titles of items you found, or where and how you found them.   

Keep a Research Journal

Keeping a research journal can help you remember what strategies you used to find research material. This ensures that you don't have to recreate your work unnecessarily. In addition, it can help you avoid plagiarism since you will know exactly where all of your ideas come from.

A research journal can look however you want it to. You can keep your journal in a paper notebook, a Word document or Google Doc, on a blog, or using a note taking feature on your mobile device. Some elements that ae helpful to include are:

  • Date searched to prompt you when it is time to check for updates. Databases may be updated every 24-48 hours.
  • Databases and websites consulted.
  • Keyword combinations used in each database or website.
  • Which keyword combinations worked best.
  • What adjustments you made and whether they were useful.
  • The citation information for each source you find.
  • A note about each source, including what's important about it, and some representative quotes.
  • Who you consulted for help, what questions you asked, and what the answers were.

How to Save Research Material

As you locate book chapters and articles that you want to read, be sure to save pdf copies of them. You can save them to a personal device or organize them using a resource management tool such as Zotero.

In addition, many databases allow you to create a free account so that you can keep track of your search strategies and add articles to a folder that can be emailed, printed, or saved. Look for a "Sign In" option to create your account. (All examples are illustrated using databases provided by EBSCO.)

Once you create an account, you can save your searches or the material you find.

To save your search so that you can recreate it later (using an EBSCO database):

  • Click Share
  • Select the search string you want to save
  • Click Folder to find the search string later.

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To save individual articles and books, simply click on the folder icon next to each title:

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  • If you do not create an account, you can still use the folder options, but your material will remain in the folder only until you log off, close your browser, or until the database times out after a period of inactivity.
  • When you leave UMass Global after completing your degree or coursework, you will lose access to library databases. If you want to save material permanently, use your own device or Zotero.