Research Rules to Live By


  1. Don't reinvent the wheel: Use others' work to fuel your own research.
    • Use pre-existing subject bibliographies or indexes to find relevant sources.
      • Use our advanced catalog search to search for "bibliography or indexes" as a Subject, and your topic either as a Subject or as Any Word. Use a double asterisk ** to truncate.
    • Use indexes, footnotes/endnotes and works cited from existing books or articles to locate other key resources on your topic. Search for them in the library catalog, article databases or WorldCat. If you need help finding a resource, don't give up. Get help from the Ask Us service or make an appointment to meet with a Librarian.
    • Identify and jot down key figures, movements and terms from existing scholarship to plug in as keywords in future searches.
  2. Let your feet (and fingers) do the walking: Physical browsing can be as good or better than electronic searching.
  3. Schedule for serendipity: Browsing the library stacks is one of the best ways to discover new resources.
  4. Get to know bibliographic records. They're your friends.
  5. Don't do it alone: Use library services (interlibrary loan, librarians, reference desks, chat, etc.).
  6. Google is good (but only to a point).
  7. Start broadly then limit thoughtfully.
  8. Use Union lists: Learn what's "out there."
  9. Don't avoid library catalogs.
  10. Don't forget about print resources.
  11. Learning about the history of research in the subject and the relevant scholars is as important as (and is part of) researching the subject.
  12. If you find a promising source, don't give up on it.
  13. Keep a good record of everything you look at (or at least everything you take notes from).
  14. Join academic listservs. They're an invaluable resource (for now and later).


Last modified: December 15, 2015