How do I do Library Research?

For instructions on how to do basic library research using the HFC Online Library


When doing basic research, you can follow these steps. If you would like Librarian assistance online, you can Live Chat with a Librarian, or submit an email question.

Step One: Choose your Topic.

If you haven't already decided on a topic, you would need to do so before running any searches.

  • Your topic should be broad enough that you can find sources.
  • It should narrow enough that your paper can sufficiently cover the topic in the required number of pages.
  • For example, a topic of "Medical Marijuana" is too broad for a 3-5 page paper.
  • But, a topic of "Medical benefits of marijuana for the chronically ill" is just about the right size.

Step Two: Figure out Search Terms

Once you have a topic, you will want to figure out how your topic translates into "keywords" or "search strategies".

  • For example, if you are researching the question: "Should the U.S. provide free college for every student?" you can't type the question in as is. What you can search would be:
    • "free college tuition" and "United States"
    • "tuition-free college" and "United States"
    • "free college" and United States"
  • Make a list of keywords that you can use to search. You may need to try several terms from your list to get the best results.

Step Three: Background Information and eBooks

If you don't know very much about your topic, it can be useful to get some background information before looking for articles. It can also be useful to look at books before articles when doing research. Books are good for getting an overview of a topic and provide a lot of information in one place. From the Library Homepage, click on eBooks. Try these for background information or for finding eBooks:

As of fall 2022, you no longer need an HFC library card (barcode) to access the library’s databases from off campus.  Please use your HFC username and password to log in.

Step Four: Find Articles using your Keywords

When are ready to search for your articles, take your list of keywords and head to the library's research databases. From the Library Homepage, click on Articles. You can use the drop-down menu at the top of the page to limit databases by subject or browse the descriptions of each database. For instance, you could select one of the specialize databases such as Literature (Gale), if it applies to your topic. Otherwise, try one of these broad databases and use your list of keywords to search:

Step Five: Cite your Sources

For help citing your sources try:

  • Last Updated Jul 17, 2023
  • Views 6042
  • Answered By Tessa Betts

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