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.
    • Before you can search effectively, you have to learn what's "out there" and how the information is organized.
    • Searching should begin by testing the waters, so start by searching broadly .
    • Start with just one or two search terms. Then either add terms, or focus those terms (based on what you learn by looking at choice bibliographic records — see Rule #4) as you go. 
    • Be sure to take advantage of limiting your searches to particular "fields" of information (subject, title, author, citation, abstract, etc.), to particular date ranges, information sources (particular journals), or formats (newspapers, trade journals, scholarly journals, fulltext, etc.) if the database allows.
  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 in the subject and the relevant scholars is as important as (and is part of) researching the subject
  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