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Research Tips and Tools

Use this guide to help you get started on your research

Research Basics

How to get started on your research:


In the boxes below, you will find six steps to get you started on your research.  These steps include:  identifying a topic, finding background information, using the online catalog to find books (and more), using databases to find articles, evaluating what you find, and citing your sources. There is also a drop down page showing how to use online resources.  If you would like a more in depth look at research basics, visit the Searching: Getting Started Guide.

Choosing a Topic

Identify and outline your topic

  1. Choose a topic for your term paper.  If you are having trouble finding a searchable topic, take a look at Global Issues in Context, GreenR, or Credo Topics (linked below).
  2. Outline the main ideas/concepts. Identify synonyms and related terms.
    • Examples: For AIDS try HIV or acquired immune deficiency syndrome; euthanasia: try assisted suicide, right to die, or mercy killing.
  3.  Remember to narrow a broad topic such as drugs or abortion. You may want to add a second term to limit your topic.
    • Examples: Drugs AND legislation; abortion AND ethics.

Find Background Information

Find background information

  • Look up your topic in an encyclopedia. The library recommends using Credo Reference or Gale Virtual Reference to get background information on your topic.  Check for references/citations in the bibliography at the end of each article to expand your search.
  • Consult your textbook or ask a librarian to help you find reference materials for additional background information.

Using the Catalog

Use the online catalog to find books or videos

  • Click HERE to use the RU catalog to find books on your topic.
  • If Roosevelt does not own the title(s) you want, check I-Share to check the CARLI database for holdings in 76 other Illinois academic libraries.
  • If you want more information on how to get books on your topic, visit the Finding Books page

Using Article Databases

Use databases to locate articles

  • Is your topic popular or scholarly in its scope? Be sure to choose the appropriate resources before you begin your research.
  • Use our databases to find articles on your topic. Some general-purpose databases that provide coverage of many subject areas are Academic Search Premier; Academic OneFile; and Periodical Abstracts. They can all be found in the drop down menu, Online Resources A-Z, on the Library Home Page. Click HERE to go there now.
  • The library has also arranged online research guides by subject.  Click HERE to find your subject area.
  • Remember to put your topic in searchable terms that the database will understand. Identify your key terms and use operators such as ‘and’ to narrow a topic; ‘or’ to broaden a topic. Example: ‘cloning and ethics,’ not ‘ethics of cloning.’

Evaluate What You Find

Evaluate what you find

Evaluate the information you have found on your topic. Think critically and consider the following:


  • Who is the author? Is the page signed?
  • Is the author an expert? What are his/her credentials?
  • Is there a link to information about the author or sponsor of the information?


  • Is the information reliable and error-free?
  • Does someone verify the information?

Remember: anyone can publish anything on the web


  • Is there evidence of bias?
  • What are the goals of the author/sponsor?
  • Is the information designed to sway your opinion? Does the page contain advertising?


  • Is the page dated? When was it last updated?
  • How current are the links?


  • Is the information in-depth? How complete is the information?
  • Does the page provide information not found elsewhere?
  • What topics are covered?
  • Is the information free, or is there a fee to obtain it?

Remember: Web coverage is often different from print coverage.

Evaluating Websites

How accurate is the information you have found?


The Online Resources found at the Roosevelt University Web site ( are different from your typical Internet sources. These resources are subscription based and require your authentication as a Roosevelt student. These resources have been selected and reviewed by the librarians and faculty at RU for their reliability, comprehensiveness, and usefulness. Be aware that many free Internet sources have not undergone any kind of review process. Remember – anyone can publish anything on the web!  Internet users must be able to separate the good from the bad. By using the following tips, you should be able to find the best sources available on the web.

Look at the URL or Web address. Does it sound professional? Does it have a catchy or humorous title? Be careful of sites whose URL sounds too unprofessional.

1. Domain:  Who or what is sponsoring the Web site?  Take a look at the table below to explore the differences in web domains.

.com – a commercial site. Be sure to examine closely, its goal is to sell you something.

.gov – United States Government sponsored web site. The information may not always be objective, but all government documents and publications are freely available online.

Examples: or

.edu – sponsored by a college or university, these can be especially helpful. However, you should be cautious of personal sites of students or faculty, usually containing a ~ or % in the URL, these sites may simply reflect the opinion of the individual.

University sponsored site:
Personal site:

.org – sponsored by a non-profit organization. These can provide a wealth of information about an organization as well as some hot topic issues. Be wary of any kind of bias the organization may have. Check the mission statement or the “About us” link from the web site for more information.

Good Example:
Bad Example:


2.  Authority:  Who is the author?  Is the author an expert? What are his/her credentials?

3.  Accuracy:  Is the information reliable and error-free? Does someone verify the information?

4.  Objectivity:  Is there evidence of bias? Does the page contain advertising?

5.  Currency:  When was the page last updated? How current are the links?

6.  Coverage:  Is the information in-depth? How complete is the information? Is the information free, or is there a fee to obtain it?

If you want to read more, visit these sites that ask in depth questions about accuracy and evaluation when conducting research online.

Cite What You Find

Cite what you find

  • Cite the information you plan to use for your research paper. Format the references/citations in your bibliography using a standard format such as MLA; APA; Turabian or Chicago style. A librarian can help you find and use these resources.
  • Be sure to check with a librarian when you have questions about research or using library materials. Additional resources can be found HERE.

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