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Modern Languages

Research 1 - 2 - 3

The research process has three basic steps:

1.) Understanding what you need.

This means understanding what types of information items you need: books, book chapters, newspaper articles, journal articles, scholarly v. popular items, etc. 

2.) Finding what you need.

This requires that you understand what tools to use to find different types of information and it requires that you understand the context for each information item. For example, finding books is easier in CONSORT or OhioLINK, while articles can be found in databases or Summon, but not CONSORT, and primary resources are best found in databases or digital collections, which may be available on the open web. A resource may be primary or secondary depending on its context. 

3.) Organizing and keeping track of what you find.

Keeping track of what you find and where you find it can save a lot of frustration in the resource process. Noting what search terms are working and what aren't, or noting new terms or authors you find are also helpful. Using a citation management software can also help you keep things organized. 

It's important to remember that the research process is a process and it isn't necessarily linear. You will find that you have to back track and repeat steps. Some things won't work. You'll discover unexpected successes too. It's all part of the fun and frustration of the research process. 

For a more in depth look at conducting research, check out the Purdue University's Online Writing Lab's Conducting Research Guide.

Creating Search Terms

1.) Break your topic into several keywords and create search strings (you will need to construct multiple searches).

I wish to explore how war is discussed from a Christian viewpoint

A particular war? Vietnam, Gulf War, World War I?

What denomination of Christianity? Baptist, Protestant?

What viewpoint? Ethically? Morally? Politically?

Morality AND War AND Christianity

War AND Politics AND Baptist AND Religion

Violence AND Ethics AND Baptist

Violence AND Morality AND Christianity

2.) Use the reference works tab to find an encyclopedia or dictionary entry on your topic. 

This will list citations for books and journal articles.

3.) Search the library catalogs with your keywords.

* pay attention to subject headings

4.) Search the databases with your keywords.

* pay attention to subjects

5.) Read, read, read! Ask more questions. Do more searches. Start writing out your ideas.


Try these handouts on Identifying Keywords and Basic Search Tips from Indiana University Libraries.

Research Tips

A keyword search retrieves any and all occurrences of a given word or combination of words, whether the words appear in the subject headings, title, or descrioption of the article or book.
Advantage: A keyword search expands the search to all occurrences of a given word or combination of words.

Disadvantage: A keyword search may retrieve much more than you want.

A subject search searches the subject headings assigned to articles and books. Subject headings are very specific terms and phrases used by libraries to describe what a book or article is about. In order to have these terms and phrases be consistent, most libraries use subject headings defined by the Library of Congress. A subject search limits your search to an exact word or an exact combination of words assigned to a given article or book as subject headings.
Advantage: A subject search retrieves exactly what you ask for.
Disadvantage: A subject search limits you to only what you ask for.

Before You Start Searching...

Think about how you will collect and organize the citations you discover during the research process.

  • print out articles and write down the citations?
  • email articles to yourself from the database?
  • what about books?
  • primary sources?

Citation management is a crucial step in the research process.  

I highly suggest using a citation management program -  a powerful, easy-to-use research tool that helps you gather, organize, and analyze sources and then share the results of your research.

Search Summon

Use Summon to search nearly everything to which Denison has access. Summon is a great place to start with research on interdisciplinary topics. 

Denison Libraries, 100 W College, Granville, Ohio 43023
Phone: 740-587-6235, email:
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