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Evergreen Valley College Library Online Support

How to Research

Common types of sources that you will encounter while researching:

  • Books
    • encyclopedias
    • academic
    • literary criticisms
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Academic Journals
  • Films
  • Broadcasts
  • Government Reports
  • Websites: blogs, wikis

You may encounter these resources in print or electronically. For example, a newspaper article can be found as a physical copy in a newspaper, on the open web and in library databases.

The Information Life Cycle from UNLV Libraries on Vimeo.

Selecting a Topic

 Selecting a topic for a research paper can be quite challenging; however, there are various recommended resources on this page to assist you in this part of the research process. Once you have a general topic, you will need to conduct some background research to narrow your topic down. It is essential to have a focused topic in a research paper because it gives direction and clarity to your writing.


How do I get Ideas for a Research Topic?

Check out our database Opposing Viewpoints to brainstorm for controversial issues. Click on Browse Issues for a list of topic ideas.

Opposing Viewpoints Database homepage

Websites for Topic Ideas

Topic Example:

You could write thousands of pages on global warming, but narrowing your focus to the impact of rising sea levels on coastal wetlands will give you a manageable topic and a clear purpose.


How do I narrow my topic?

When analyzing your topic, ask: who, what, where, when, why and how?

  • Who are the significant players? Who was impacted?
  • What are the components or aspects of the topic will you explore?
  • Where does your event take place? What locations are impacted by your topic?
  • When did the event occur and/or what is the significance of the time period on your event?
  • Why does this topic matter?
  • How does this topic impact society?

Recommended Databases for Background Research

To help you narrow down your topic, you will need to conduct background research to build a better understanding of your topic and the related issues.

The following reference databases are recommended for gathering background research on your topic:

Evaluating Websites and Other Sources


  • Who is the author?
  • Why was it written -- for what purpose, organization, or audience?
  • When was it written?
  • Does it include references or a works cited list?

If you cannot determine the credibility of the information you are using, especially from a website, it's best not to use it to factually support your argument. Using biased or inaccurate information in your paper can negatively impact your grade.

Searching the web can be problematic because of uneven quality, authorship is uncertain, articles may be biased, few or no citations, info. is often brief and has little depth. Searching the libraries databases is more efficient


The following video will explain how to introduce sources, summarize research, paraphrase information and quote from research: