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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 books, full-text articles, and useful 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 - College Composition

We recommend students complete the Library Research Assignment in Google Doc format. If using the Google doc, you must must first make a COPY. To do this, click on "File", then on "Make a Copy." Rename and save your copy in order to edit the document. Once you have completed the assignment, save your copy as a PDF before submitting it to Canvas (ask a librarian for help, if needed).

Completing the assignment via Google Docs is not enough; students will only be given credit for the assignment if the PDF file is uploaded to Canvas. If you have any questions, please email a librarian at or

(If you prefer to hand-write your answers or use a Word doc, see the box at the bottom of the page.)

Developing a Research Question

Alternative File Types of the Library Research Assignment

If you prefer to print, then hand-write your answers before scanning and saving the document as a PDF, print the PDF file below. Ryan Library provides access to an easy-to-use scanner in the Reference Area. If you're on campus, and would like a paper copy of the assignment, ask a librarian and we will be happy to provide one for you.

A Word doc of the assignment is also available below, if preferred.

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