1: Identify Your Topic
your topic ideas with your class instructor.
your topic ideas with a reference librarian. It may be wise
to set up a research consultation with an information specialist,
if your project is lengthy.
the following titles in the Undergraduate Library, Current
Editorials on File
Keesing’s Record of World Events
over the index and the article titles in a specialized encyclopedia
that covers the subject area or discipline of your topic.
of American History
of American Social History
Women in America, a Historical Encyclopedia
your topic idea as a question.
example, if you are interested in finding out about use
of alcoholic beverages by college students, you might pose
the question, "What effect does use of alcoholic beverages
have on the health of college students?"
the main concepts or keywords
in your question. In this case they are alcohol, health,
and college students.
Test Your Topic
the main concepts or keywords in your topic by looking them
up in the appropriate background sources or by using them
as search terms in Sterling
(the HU Libraries online catalog) and in periodical
are finding too much information and too many sources, narrow
your topic by using the and operator: exercise and
health and college students, for example.
too little information may indicate that you need to broaden
your topic. For example, look for information on students,
rather than college students. Link synonymous search terms
with or: african americans or blacks or afro americans.
with search terms also broadens the search and increases
the number of items you find. A truncation symbol represents
any possible ending of a word. For example: comput*
retrieves computer, computers, computing. The truncation
symbol may vary from database to database. Some widely
used truncation symbols include the * and the ?
you have identified and tested your topic, you're ready
to take the next step, finding background information on
your research topic.
Finding Background Information
you have identified the main topic and keywords for your
research, find one or more sources of background information
to read. These sources will help you understand the broader
context of your research and tell you in general terms what
is known about your topic. The most common background sources
are encyclopedias and dictionaries from the reference collection. Textbooks
also provide background information.
can find encyclopedias
for specific topics by using Sterling or by asking a reference
librarian to suggest appropriate titles.
Use of Bibliographies
the background information and note any useful sources (books,
journals, magazines, etc.) listed in the bibliography at
the end of the encyclopedia article or dictionary entry.
The sources cited in the bibliography are good starting
points for further research. Look up these sources
the subject headings listed in the subject field of the
Sterling record for these books. Then do subject searches
using those subject headings to locate additional titles.
that many of the books you find in the HU Library catalogs
and articles from periodical indexes will themselves have
bibliographies. Check these bibliographies for additional
relevant resources for your research.
this technique of routinely following up on sources cited
in bibliographies, you can generate a surprisingly large
number of books and articles on your topic in a relatively
of Congress Call Numbers
HU Libraries use Library of Congress call numbers for
materials acquired after 1975. For a brief introduction,
see this web site:
the Howard University Libraries online catalog
first resource to use to find books in one of the HU Libraries
is the Howard University Libraries Catalog, Sterling.
Card Catalog for some pre-1974 books
there is still a card catalog in the library. Some books
published before 1975 are not yet entered in Sterling.
For these pre-1975 library materials, use the card catalog.
are continuous publications such as journals, newspapers,
or magazines. They are issued regularly (daily, weekly,
monthly, or quarterly).
includes records for periodicals received by the various
libraries in the HU Libraries system.
does not include information on the articles within those
periodicals. To find periodical articles, use periodical
you want to find articles on a subject, articles by a
specific author or authors, you need to use one or more
how do you know which periodical index to use?
determine what kind of periodicals you want.
you want an index to all three kinds of articles, use
general electronic indexes like Ebscohost.
you want articles from scholarly or research journals,
ask a reference librarian to recommend an index for your
you want newspaper articles, ask the Reference Staff about
CD-ROM databases or search Lexis-Nexis
via the Library’s homepage.
you're not sure which kind of periodical you want or you're
not sure which periodical index to use, ask a reference
You Have the Citation to a Specific Article, Use Sterling.
you do have the citation or reference to a periodical
article--if you know at least the title of the periodical
and the issue date of the article you want--you can find
its location by Sterling. Do not use the abbreviated
titles that are often used in periodical indexes; enter
the first few words of the title, omitting "a,"
"an" or "the" at the beginning of
Finding Materials in the Media
you know the title of the item, do a title search and
look for the word “visual” at the end of the
For example, when you search by the title Eyes
on the Prize, you will see that some of
the titles include the word “visual.”
find videos on a specific subject, add the word video
or visual to a keyword search.
Example: King Lear and
(video or visual)
browse a list of certain kinds of videos, such as feature
films, use a subject search that retrieves that kind
Examples: feature films, documentary
all feature or documentary films are assigned these subject
headings, however, so the results will not be complete.
In addition, the results of these searches will include
entries for books about films as well as the films
visual materials, the best way to find a sound recording
in Sterling is to do a title, keyword or an author search.
Author searches will find the names of readers or performers
on a sound recording.
Example: marcus garvey
that the spoken audiotape version of “Marcus
Garvey” is indicated by the word "sound."
searches will find the names of readers or performers on
a sound recording.
Example: jones james earl
Writing, and Formatting Your Research paper
of the titles listed below are located in The Founders Library. Most
of them are in the Reference Room; a few are in the stacks.)
a Topic, Taking Notes, Organizing a Draft
well-organized guide to writing papers, from choosing
the topic to writing the paper in its final form. Includes
advice on collecting information, outlining, taking notes,
known for its chapters on format in footnotes and bibliographies.
Replete with examples illustrating how the general rules
apply to all manner of publications and problems.
the Paper: Style & Usage
handbook is both a comprehensive guide to good English
grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling, and a textbook
containing exercises on these subjects. Arranged
by subject, it includes a glossary of grammatical terms
and an index.
White, who revised the original of this "little book"
and who wrote the introduction to it, says that this was
Will Strunk's "attempt to cut the vast tangle of
English rhetoric down to size and write its rules and
principles on the head of a pin". As useful today
as it was when first written (1919), the Elements is an
essential guide for anyone who takes the English language
Final Product: Format & Documentation
Manual of the American Psychological Association.
The authoritative style manual for anyone writing in the
field of psychology. The chapters include discussions
of the content and organization of a manuscript, writing
style, the American Psychological Association style, and
typing, mailing and proofreading. In addition, in the
final chapter is a description of the journals of the
American Psychological Association.
handbook is based on the MLA Style Manual and is intended
as an aid for college students writing research papers.
Included here is information on selecting a topic, researching
the topic, note taking, the writing of footnotes and bibliographies,
as well as sample pages of a research paper. Extremely
useful for the beginning researcher.
Kate L. Manual
for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.
Kate Turabian's standard guide for student writers, newly
revised and expanded. The chapters cover everything you've
ever wanted to know about putting a paper together, from
its introductory chapters to its bibliography.
Basic Steps in the Research Process
Suggestions for Finding a Topic
Search for Specific Types of Material @ Your Library
Find Books by Call Numbers