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US Template Pages: US Research Strategies

When in doubt...ASK!

When doing research, remember to take advantage of every resource.  Quit spinning your wheels - ask any librarian for help when you get stuck or feel overwhelmed.  We are here to offer every assistance we can.

Step 1. Understand Your Assignment

  • Know what your are being asked to do
  • Highlight key words and due dates on your assignment
  • Be able to restate the assignment in your own words
  • Always have your assignment next to you when you are working
  • Take a look at background information found in the following sources:
    • general encyclopedias, reference books
    • textbooks
    • general dictionaries
    • Background info = Common Knowledge
  • Once you have background knowledge, develop research questions:
    • Write down what you already know or don't know about your topic
    • Using that information, develop questions you would like to answer when doing your research
    • Use probing questions such as why? how? what if? should? 
    • Avoid questions that can be answered with YES or NO

Step 3. Choose Your Resources

  • Use the skim and scan technique within the source—read captions, bold headings, etc.
  • Use the index to search for topics within a book.
  • Use CMD+F to locate your keyword within a source--if it is a PDF file, you will need to download the file first.
  • Look for sources that support both sides of an argument to get a clear picture of your issue.

Step 5. Organize Your Notes

  • Look for common themes and different ways to organize your thoughts.
  • Make certain you have facts to support your opinions.
  • Did you answer the questions you were asked?

Step 2. Locate Useful Information

  • Use the sources provided in this Research Guide.
  • The search terms or keywords you use to search are what determine the results you get.
  • Generate keyword search terms by identifying the main ideas or concepts within the topic sentence
  • Keep a list of search terms. (searching "history of clocks" will not help--be specific: "timepieces in history" or "measuring time" or "horology"
  • Use your assignment handout for other terms. 
  • Expand your search terms by brainstorming related terms or synonyms that describe your main ideas:
    • Money: currency, banking, usury, coinage, cowrie, barter
    • Globalization; development, growth, proliferation
    • History; ancient meaning, orgination
    • Maps: cartography, topography 

Step 4. Take Notes

  • Always begin by keeping the bibliographic information for all the sources you use
  • Use bullet point summaries of the information you need.
  • NEVER copy & paste text from an online source.

Sample Notes: 


  • take notes here in bullet points


Andrade, Tonio. "Beyond Guns, Germs, And Steel: European Expansion And Maritime Asia, 1400-1750." Journal of   Early Modern History,Vol. 14, no. 1/2, 2010, pp. 165-186. Academic Search Complete,,uid

  • Significant developments in the New World versus the Old (find book in the library Guns, Germs, and Steel)
  • Trade significantly expanded between Europe and Asia between 1492 and 1650= Age of Exploration and resulted in "Age of Commerce" 

Step 6. Create the Final Product

  • Did you check your work against the assignment outline? 
  • Did you check your work against the rubric?
    • Can you check off the requirements?
  • Did you answer the questions you were asked?
  • Does your bibliography accurately reflect the resources you used?