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Library Services and Resources for Distance Learning

Information about Palm Beach State College's Library and its resources for online classes and distance learners

Research Worksheet

Library Research Worksheet

Introduction to Research
Research is a process that involves planning, creativity and flexibility. Planning ensures that you proceed in a systematic and effective way. Creativity allows you to find important, but possibly not obvious information. Because research may take unanticipated twists and turns, flexibility allows you to alter plans and follow new avenues of exploration.

Find Background Information on Your Topic
Once you've identified the main topic for your research, it can be very helpful to find some background information on it. Reading background information (or an overview of the subject) can save time and dead-ends later, and can help you put issues and subtopics in context. Notice the way the information has been organized within the overview, and the headings and subheadings that are used to subdivide the information. These can give you some possible ways to focus the topic of your paper.  Encyclopedias (both print and online) are great because they highlight the main points without giving too much detail (you will find that later!).  See the box below for some online encyclopedias and reference books.

Find Keywords
Keywords are the words you will use to search online catalogs, databases and the Internet. Good keywords help you find relevant information. After reading background information, one method for selecting keywords is to look over the material and underline the specific words that relate to your topic. These will be your first keywords.  Then find synonyms, broader and narrower terms and other related words for your first set of keywords. As you start finding articles, note any useful terms that occur within them, and add them to your keyword list. 

Develop Search Strategies
A search that goes from looking at the broad aspects of the topic and proceeds to the more specific aspects is usually a good way to start.  To refine your search, add more terms with the Boolean operators AND and OR. 
   AND narrows the search; each result must include all the terms you specified. 
      Example: climate change AND polar ice caps
OR broadens a search; each result may include any of the terms you specified.  
      Example: college OR university

Gather Your Sources
Use the library's catalog to search for books, eBooks, and streaming media.
Use databases to search for articles from magazines, scholarly journals and newspapers.

Make Source and Note Cards
Keep track of your sources for later documentation in a Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA) page. One low-tech method is to write down publication information for each source on an index card, and assign a number to that card. These will be your source cards. Then as you read the item, use a separate index card to write down each point that you think will be useful as you write your paper. These will be the note cards. (Make sure you write down the page number where the information comes from.)  Reference the source number on the note card. After you collect a reasonable amount of note cards, cluster them in groups of similar ideas.  Evaluate what you have found and be prepared to adjust your research, and/or your research topic.

Citing Sources
Noodletools allows you to quickly generate and print a MLA Works Cited List or APA References List that complies with all of the rules detailed in the most current versions of the MLA Handbook and APA Publication Manual. A citation list generated in Noodletools takes care of punctuation, alphabetization and formatting, producing a polished source list that you can import directly into a Word document or Google Docs. To begin, go to: To make full use of all its features, it is necessary to register for it while at a campus location.


Research Companion

Research Companion provides professional videos that teach your students how to research.  See a librarian for more information.

Research Companion (ProQuest) On Campus | Off Campus