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How To Do Research: Introduction

Use this guide to begin research on a new topic and to learn more about Ryan Library's research tools.


Research instruction demonstrates how to locate and evaluate sources for a research paper or project. With your PLNU writing class, you will learn to locate relevant subject encyclopedia articles, books, peer-reviewed journal articles, and high-quality internet sites. 

This guide is only an introduction. Seek help from the PLNU librarians when you need it. 

Ask a Librarian

Chat with a librarian here! 

You can also connect via text message at 619-592-8884 or by email.

Library Research Assignment

The Library Research Assignment [link opens Canvas assignment page] is designed to help you build your research skills. 

The Library Research Assignment will open as a Google Doc connected to Canvas in your PLNU Google Drive. *You MUST use the Chrome browser to access the assignment. Be sure you're signed into your PLNU Google account.

Please read the assignment directions carefully and use the tools and resources introduced in the Library Research Instruction sessions to complete the assignment. Make sure you review the rubric prior to submitting the assignment.

If you have any questions, please email a librarian: Robin Lang or Julie Sweeney.

Please ask your questions as they arise; your librarians are here to help!

Developing a Research Question

Before you Begin

Before you begin your research, you should:

  1. Think about what types of information you think you will need to find. 
  2. Decide what type of source would be the best place to find that type of information.

Here are some examples:

Type of information Where to find it
  • newspapers
  • websites from news organizations
  • databases 
Information about a specific organization/company
  • websites 
  • company profiles 
Research article
  • scholarly journals
Personal accounts
  • magazines 
  • news articles 
  • blogs
  • websites 
  • scholarly journals 
History, overview, definitions (scholarly)
  • subject encyclopedias
  • books 
History, overview (popular)
  • magazines 
  • books

Choosing a Topic

Choosing and refining a topic is an important part of the research process.  One valuable path for exploring debatable current topics is our Credo Reference database, which includes resources like ProCon Headlines and Issues and Controversies in addition to more than 700 specialized encyclopedias. Keep in mind that your topic may need to fit specific criteria assigned by your professor.

Within Credo, we recommend the following:

  • Browse Topic Pages
  • Explore Mind Maps
  • Try your own search