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WRIT 2100: Delve Deeper: Research Methods in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences: The Research Process

Conceptualizing Research: Seven Steps

Identify Your Initial Research Topic
Pose your topic as a question

Starting Points: Use Reference Sources for Background and Context on a Subject
Find articles that summarize the topic, explain key concepts, define terminology and much more

Find Books
Find items held at Cornell (books, journals, and everything else we own)

Find Articles
Find articles, essays, book chapters and monographs

Requesting items not available at Cornell
BorrowDirect and Interlibrary Loan

Evaluate your sources
Some tips on how to evaluate the sources you've found

Cite your sources
Guides and Resources for preparing your bibliography

Getting Help
Ask a Librarian!

Subject vs Keyword

subject terms= fewer hits & better

keywords= more hits & sometimes worse

A keyword means find the word anywhere in the record -- title, author, notes, description, publisher, etc. (NOT the full text of the book or article)

A subject term is human-made and is designed to help you to other materials of similar topics

What's "on" the web?

Know what you are searching


The best research uses everything, all the tools, and the best tool for the task.

But not all tools are equal. Google and Wikipedia have their uses, but when it comes to scholarly research, rely on restricted tools/resources which are superior, have more content, and are free to Cornellians.

Open to the World Tools

               Restricted/Subscription/Academic Tools


                Library databases

Google Scholar/Google Books



                    Online & print scholarly encyclopedias

                        Newspaper databases & archives


                        Journals (online & print)

There is no uberdatabase

There is no one place that you can find everything. Where you look depends on the stage of your research and other factors. 


  • what is being searched
  • how it is being searched 

Flow of Sources

Web Accessibility Assistance