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Start Your Research

Just starting your research? Review the basics here.

Research Consultations

For in-depth help, book a research consultation appointment with a librarian.
Schedule an appointment using the appointment calendar below, or email any librarian directly to make an appointment.

What kinds of things can a Librarian help you with?

We can help you:

  • Find articles on a topic
  • Evaluate sources
  • Find reliable websites
  • Develop a research question
  • Start a literature review
  • Make an annotated bibliography
  • Find statistics  
  • Format citations

Or Email Your Question Directly

Online Citation Help

Check out our Cite Your Sources guide, which provides information and examples about how to cite the most common sources for your scholarly papers.  This guide also has information on electronic resource management tools, such as Zotero, which will help keep your sources organized in folders and ready to export as bibliographies.

Print copies of the publication manuals are available at the Doheny library reference desk or the Chalon library reserve shelf.


Choose A Topic

When choosing a topic to research it can be helpful to look through recent journals or encyclopedias in your field of study. This may help spark ideas or pique your interest! 

For argumentative papers, or current controversial issues try one of the databases below:

Explore some of these sites for more ideas on choosing a topic. 

Conduct a Literature Review

  1. With your thesis statement and research question in mind, brainstorm a list of key terms, novel characters, historical figures, etc.

  2. Go to the MSMU Research Databases or the MSMU Research Guides.

  3. Choose a database to search. In the search box, type one or more of your key terms, separated by the word AND.  You can also search Google Scholar for articles.  If you want to find books, go to the MSMU Libraries Catalog and choose the "Subject" or "Word" search.

  4. Click titles of articles to view them.

  5. When you find an article that interests you, download the pdf, AND check the reference list (at the end of the article) for other relevant articles. You can search for these articles in the library's catalog.

  6. Also, check the subject terms within the database record for the article.  Clicking these terms will create a new search for other articles that are indexed with this same subject term.  These results will be more focused than the results of your keyword search.

  7. Save or print articles that you want to use in your paper.

  8. Take notes on the content of each article, including quotations that you want to use in your paper.

  9. Make sure to document and cite the sources of all your information so that you can avoid plagiarism.

When to Use Wikipedia and When Not To

You can use Wikipedia during the initial information gathering stage of your research. 

Every Wikipedia page includes footnotes.  Use these footnotes to find the original sources -- on the Web or in our library.  

Looking at original sources will offer clues to the context and relevance of the information.

Cite the original sources rather than Wikipedia.

However, Wikipedia is not an appropriate source for an academic paper. 

This is because the articles can be written and/or updated by anyone. Hoaxes (like this one) are not uncommon.

Cite the original sources rather than Wikipedia.