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Quick Start to Research

Guiding you through the research process.

Selecting Resources

Using a variety of resources in your research creates a fuller picture of your topic. Each type of resource has its uses. Select resources that will best help you in your research.


Use books when you need summarized knowledge or an overview.  Books are helpful for historical topics and topics that span a length of time.  Books provide bibliographies and you can use those citations to find more research on your topic.

Books are not as useful when you have a very recent or narrow topic.  Books take years to research and publish so the most recent information will not be in books.


Use articles (from journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.) when you need very recent information. If you have a narrow or single topic to cover, articles are your best bet in finding relevant information.

Articles are not as useful for historical topics or topics spanning a long length of time.  Also sometimes an article can be too specific for your needs.

For academic research it is best to use peer-reviewed or scholarly journals see why here.

Find articles through databases or specific e-journals.


Websites are a great source of information for many topics especially government information, government statistics, and information on institutions or companies.  There is a lot of information on a lot of topics.

When using websites you must evaluate all information. You need to find out if the information being presented is accurate.  Please see "Evaluating Resources" for tips on getting the most credible information from the web.

Reference Resources

Reference sources, like dictionaries, encyclopedias and almanacs, are designed to contain fast facts and summaries. Reference resources are a great place to get started with understanding your topic. Many reference sources also contain bibliographies to help you find more resources about your topic.

Reference sources are tertiary sources so they should be used as starting places for research not as all of your research.  You research should be made of primary and secondary sources.


Multimedia items, like video recordings, preserve information in a visual format. Use videos to watch interviews, documentaries and other educational videos on your topic. 

You should evaluate all information found in videos, especially videos found on the open web. ICC also has access to databases of streaming videos that have high-quality and credible information.

Subject Search Terms

Tip for efficient subject searching:

  • Use your natural language to find ONE book that's relevant.
  • Click the title of that book
  • Scroll down to the "subjects" and look for the library term/subject it groups under your topic
  • Click the hyperlink of that topic and get ALL the works we have on your topic!