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Library Research at Cornell: Which

A stepwise guide to efficient research using the Cornell University Library. Click on the BLUE TABS below to access each section.

Identify Your Topic

Identify a Topic

If you haven't picked a topic yet, scroll down to the next box--Suggestions for Finding a Topic.

State your topic idea as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about use of alcoholic beverages by college students, you might pose the question, "What effect does use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?"

Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question. In this case they are alcoholic beverages, health, and college students.

Suggestions for Finding a Topic

Discuss your topic ideas with your class instructor.

Discuss your topic ideas with a reference librarian. It may be wise to set up a research consultation. You can request a personal research consultation using this online form.

Browse likely topics using our Online Encyclopedias guide.

Explore current topics using News Collections Online and CQ Researcher. See also Keesing's Record of World Events for political and historical topics.

Browse our subject research guides.

More details on finding and using subject encyclopedias and other background sources.

Develop Your Topic

Test Your Topic

Test the main concepts or keywords in your topic by looking them up in the appropriate background sources or by using them as search terms in the Cornell's "Classic" Catalog and in periodical databases.

If you are finding too much information and too many sources, narrow your topic by using the and operator: beer and health and college students, for example.

Finding too little information may indicate that you need to broaden your topic. For example, look for information on students, rather than college students. Link synonymous search terms with or: alcoholic beverages or beer or wine or liquor. Use truncation (i.e., alcohol*) with search terms to broaden the search and increases the number of items you find.

Reference Help

Michael Engle
106 Olin Library
(607) 255-1884
Cornell University Library

Subject Selector for
Reference; Anglo-American News