Research Rules to Live By


  1. Don't re-invent the wheel: use others' work to fuel your own research
  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 are your friends
  5. Don't do it alone: Use library services (ILL, 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 is "out there"
  9. Don't avoid library catalogs
  10. Don't forget about print resources
  11. Learning about the history of research or criticism in the subject — including the relevant scholars — is as important as (and is part of) researching the subject.
    • Understanding the context of scholarship, where it fits in the history of the field of study (what time, what country, what movement, etc.), should be a precursor to using that scholar's work or critical approach in your own work.
    • Citing someone else's scholarship in your own work requires that you have some sense of how that person's work has been received over time.
    • Not all criticism/research/scholarship is equal, nor is it fixed in value.
    • To really know the major critical works in your field, you must also be familiar with the works cited in those major works.
    • The Web of Science (a citation index) is a unique resource in that it can allow you to do " back door research" (Google Scholar also allows for this to a more limited degree).
      1. You can locate articles that have cited a particular seminal article or author in your field (Note. This will return only those articles in publications indexed by Web of Science or Google Scholar).
      2. You can find out how many times a particular source has been cited by others in the field (relative importance).
      3. For some records, you can see the list of works cited.
      4. Use the "Find Related Records" search and the database will show you other articles that cited the same, or similar sources.
  12. If you find what looks to be 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 are an invaluable resource (for now and later)

Last modified: December 15, 2015