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Global Resource Systems Research Guide

Introduction to library resources and other information sources for students and faculty affiliated with the Global Resource Systems program at Iowa State University.

Research is an active process

Often the hardest part of the research process is getting started. Below are some quick tips to help you out.

An image visulizing the research process as a cycle that starts with 1) what you know, 2) what do you want to learn, 3) where you find resources, 4) refine your search, 5) evaluate, and 6) cite your sources.

image from:http://www.hancockcollege.edu/library/researchhelp.php

Choose a topic, develop your inquiry

  • Consider what you already know, what parts you find interesting and what areas you want to explore further.

Search the literature

To find out what other people have discovered and how they did it you'll have to become a skilled searcher. 

  • Make a list of search terms that describe your topic
  • Make sure you are searching in the appropriate databases
  • If you are having trouble Ask a Librarian! 

Refine your Search

  • Be prepared to add and subtract terms as you figure out which words "match" the literature.
  • Start with the general and work your way toward the specific (example: cooking -> baking -> pastries)

Primary vs. Secondary sources for the sciences

Primary

Definition: An eye-witness account - i.e. results are reported for the first time by the authors/researchers.

Types: research articles, conference papers, lab notebooks, proceedings, technical reports, theses and studies.

Secondary

Definition: A second-hand report - i.e. results are summarized, interpreted, or commented upon by others who were not witnesses or participants.

Types: review articles, encyclopedias, magazine articles and text-books.

Warning signs that you are reading a secondary source:

  • Results are summarized with little detail.
  • Researchers, labs or groups are referred to by name.
  • Results are displayed in eye-catching graphics or info-graphics.
  • Results are discussed in synthesis with other experiments.

Scholarly vs. Popular

The following sites have more information regarding the differences between scholarly and popular sources of information:

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