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How to Do Research: Getting Started

How to use background sources, find books and articles and evaluate sources.

Feeling lost?

Feeling lost and don't know where to start your research?  Help is right here. 


Do you need strategies for better research?  You're in the right place!  This is a dynamic guide; we will continually add and revise content.

Need help finding books and articles on a particular topic?  Go to our subject guides.

Do not be shy about asking for help! 
All the librarians can help you get started, or answer questions at any stage of the process.

  • Call the reference desk at:
    • Keffer (Minneapolis) : 651.962.4664
    • O'Shaughnessey Frey (St. Paul): 651.962.5001
    • Ireland (Seminary):
    • Law (Minneapolis):
  • Use our IM service (the purple link at the bottom of this screen).

We also schedule appointments for more in-depth assistance or tutoring. Any librarian can help you.

Videos to Guide You

These short (<5 minute) videos can help you get going with library research. These videos have soundtracks. Captioning is available--just click the CC button at the bottom of the viewer.

Videos are still being added--check this page for updates!  (This content is from U-Mass)

  • Research: Where to start? 
    (3:34) Academic research is different from other types of information seeking. Learn where to locate the best information on your research topic.
  • Choosing the right database 
    (1:54) Which of the 300+ databases available to you through the UMass Amherst Libraries is the best one for your search? This video will help you figure it out.
  • Looking for articles
    (4:03) Learn how to make the most of the Libraries' databases to find the best articles on your topic.
  • Thinking like a database  
    (4:11) Have you ever typed a search into a database only to see the dreaded words “no results found”? This video will teach you to think like a database and pull out the best articles on your topic.
  • What's a peer-reviewed or refereed journal?  
    Learn what peer review is and why it matters when you're evaluating information.