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Pacific Lutheran University

Inquiry. Service. Leadership. Care.

Getting Started with Research

Whether this is your first time doing research, you need a quick refresher, or you want to improve your own research practices, this guide is design to assist you.

Gathering Sources

As you prepare to gather sources, you will need to consider the following questions:

  • What information do you need?
  • Who might write that sort of information?
  • Where might you locate that type of information?

Use these answers to help you decide where to begin gathering sources. For example, certain government websites might post statistics on many subjects, but those websites probably won't provide a critique of those statistics. For critique or analysis of statistics, you may need to read academic articles or visit websites that report on that topic.

Potential Starting Points

Keep in mind that every source of information (for example, Google Scholar or Academic Search Complete) looks and works differently. While Google Scholar has one main search box, Academic Search Complete has multiple boxes. Exploring how each of these tools works, and understanding what the tool is searching (all of the internet or only certain resources) can help you target the types of information you are seeking.

  • PLU Library Catalog
    • Who can access it: Anyone can search in the library catalog, however only those who are affiliated with PLU can access the resources.
    • What can you find in it: The library catalog lets you browse almost everything that the library purchases, digital and physical. This includes academic articles, books, movies, music scores, etc.
    • Things to know: The filters on the left side will let you manage the number of results. Consider using the advanced search features for further control.
  • Academic Search Complete (ASC)
    • Who can access it: Only people affiliated with PLU can access this resources and its content.
    • What can you find in it: ASC is a multi-disciplinary database where you can find both scholarly and non-scholarly sources of information. If you are doing research in the social sciences, ASC as well as other EBSCO databases can be of use in your research.
    • Things to know: The advanced search features is quite useful when trying to locate specific types of information (articles, reviews, speeches, etc.). Though ASC will suggest terms for you to consider when searching, don't always follow its lead. Be mindful about what words you use when searching and be as creative as necessary.
  • JSTOR
    • Who can access it: Only people affiliated with PLU can access this resources and its content.
    • What can you find in it: JSTOR is a multi-disciplinary database that is quite useful when doing humanities research.
    • Things to know: JSTOR can often integrate content from Wikipedia to give you context when exploring certain topics. Each article that you find in JSTOR will have these topics, use them to find related articles to the ones you already have.

Already know what you need? Here are a few more options:

If you need background information: If you need a broader overview: If you need detailed information:
Consider consulting encyclopedias or books related to your topic. Additionally, resources like Credo Reference can provide you with general information about your topic. Consider using books related to your topic. You can search for books in the Library Catalog. Consider using a database or journal that is associated with your theme or the discipline for which you are writing. You can browse for databases by academic discipline in the A-Z Databases List.

Questions to Consider

Q: When using a certain tool, like Academic Search complete, what voices or perspectives might be privileged? Whose voices might be missing within this sort of tool?

Q: In what ways might the choice of a certain tool, like the NY Times database, impact the information you are able to gather?