Start Research


Find Background Information

When beginning your research, you'll want to start with some general background reading in your subject. As you read, note the subject terms used to describe your topic, who the key scholars/researchers in the field seem to be, and any seminal works or scholarly journals mentioned (especially those with extensive bibliographies), as these can all lead you to further useful sources.

An encyclopedia is a good place to start your research

  • search your topic in the library catalog and then limit by Collection > Reference
  • or check out our Research Guides for subject-specific suggestions

Find Books, Journal Titles & DVDs

Once you have an idea of the best search terms to use, go to the Library catalog , a database with the titles of all the books, journals, DVDs, videos, musical scores, CD-ROMs, etc. that are available in the Wellesley College libraries. However, it doesn't contain individual journal articles (see Find articles ).

  • for the greatest number and variety of results, keyword searches are often the best way to start
  • you don't need to capitalize any words when searching the catalog
  • if you have specific items in mind, use an author or title search
    • search authors by "last name first name"
      • shakespeare william for books by William Shakespeare
    • drop any initial articles in titles (such as "a," "an," "the") in any language:
      • great gatsby for The Great Gatsby
      • monde for the newspaper le Monde
  • for more precise searching on a topic, a subject search is best
    • select subject search from the pulldown on the library catalog (instead of keyword or title)
    • or, find an item that is of interest and follow the linked subject terms in the full record for that item
    • subject searches find fewer items than keyword searches, but of greater relevance to your topic
  • you can save a list of items you find useful in the catalog by clicking the Save to List link.
  • to send these items to yourself, click on My Account > Saved Items, then check and click the Email button to email them to yourself.
  • make sure you note the location, call number (shelf location), and holdings (the years and volumes, if it's a journal), in order to find the item.

Find Journal Articles

  • if you have the citation to an article (the author, title, journal, date, etc.), use the Article Locator tool to find the full text of the article (under the "Find Articles" tab on the library homepage)
  • you can search for articles using one of the library's many licensed research databases, listed on the Databases A-Z page.
  • not sure which database to search? Consult the Research Guides (Find Articles tab) for the best database on your topic
  • not every article indexed in a database will be available full-text online. Click on the  button to see what the format options are:
    • look at the full record of the journal to see if we own the year and volume you need; note the location and call number (shelf location)
    • a link to the full text if it is available online;
    • a link to the library catalog to see if we own the journal in print
    • a link to the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) form to request the article if we don't have it online or in print

    Find Materials at Other Libraries

    Remember to plan ahead -- materials from other libraries can take 2-14 days to arrive.

    • Use WorldCat to search library catalogs all around the world for books, videos, etc. that we don't own. Once you find a title that you want, simply click on the   button to see if the library has it and/or to link to the ILL page to place an Interlibrary Loan request.
    • tip: If you don't want to wait for the book to come to you, apply at a Wellesley Research Help Desk for a Boston Library Consortium (BLC) card which will allow you to visit and borrow from any of 16 other participating BLC libraries.

    Evaluating Information

     Be critical of ALL the information you encounter. While information is increasingly available online, not everything is on the Web and Google won't find everything you need. It can be difficult to evaluate information (especially if it is in a field that is new to you). The tips below are designed to get you thinking critically about the materials you come across in your research.

  • Questions to ask about information you find

    • Source of information -- Who wrote it? Who is publishing it?
    • Content of information
      • Who is the intended audience?
      • What is its purpose? (advocacy? business/marketing? news? informational? editorial? etc.)
      • Is there a bias?
      • Can the information be verified? Has the author included citations?
      • What other resources are available on this topic?
    • Currency
      • When was the information written/published?
      • When was it last revised?
      • Are the links current or broken?

    Scholarly v. Popular

    You'll want to use different types of sources depending on the purpose of your assignment. It is therefore important to understand the differences between scholarly and popular writing in journals.

    This page on Scholarly Journals v. Popular Magazine Articles from the University of Texas at San Antonio describes some of the characteristics of each.

    Citing Information

    Not sure how to properly cite your sources? Take a look at the library's Citing Sources page for print and online citation style guides.

    Term Paper Calculator

    The University of Minnesota Assignment Calculator calculates a schedule for you depending on your subject area and when you'll begin your assignment. It also gives links to helpful hints for each step of the research/writing process.

    Get Additional Help

    Still feeling overwhelmed by the research process? Want some tips on searching the catalog or databases? AskUs or contact a librarian specializing in your subject area.