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Research Lab for Upper-Level Research

Session Information

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this Research Lab, students will be able to:

  • Determine their information need and gather appropriate data and/or sources to meet that need
  • Search disciplinary literature
  • Recognize, read, and understand scholarly research

What is an information need?

Before you start searching for sources, you should identify and define your information need. This way you wil know what you're looking for and when you've found it. It will also help you know where to start your search.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What information do you need? Define your problem or interpret your assignment.
  • What information do you already have on the subject? What facts or background information do you already know?
  • Do you want general or specific information about the subject?
  • How much information do you want? A single fact? A paragraph? A few pages? An entire book?
  • Do you need primary or secondary sources, or a combination of both?
  • Are you required to have peer-reviewed journal articles?
  • What types of information do you want?
    • opinions
    • statistics or data
    • case studies or specific examples
    • name of experts
    • historical information
    • analysis
  • What information sources (databases, library catalogs, encyclopedias, the internet) will help you find the information you need?

University of Toledo's Library Toolkit for Student Research

Librarian Pro Tip - Read the Article More Than Once!

Scholarly articles are complex pieces of writing. They are written by scholars, for scholars, and the authors assume that readers will have extensive background knowledge of the field. As a student, you will need to work harder than a professional in the field to fully understand a scholarly article. This is not a bad thing. You just aren't as familiar with this research as a professional because you're still in college.

Follow these steps for reading success. You should read the article 3 times. By "read," I mostly mean SKIM looking for specific pieces of information.

  • READING 1: In your first reading, do not read the article from start to finish.
    • Read the title, abstract, and introduction.
    • Put a question mark (?) next to any word or concept you do not understand. Look them up so that you know what they mean (consult your textbook, an encyclopedia, the web).
    • Write down 1-2 sentences that summarize the article in your own words. This should answer the question: What is this article about?
  • READING 2: Now that you're oriented to the article and know the basics of the author's study, your second reading will allow you to pay attention to important details you missed the first time around.
    • Read the beginning and end of sub-sections (these are usually in Bold or Italics). Pay particular attention to topic sentences (authors make important points in the first sentences of their paragraphs).
    • Answer 3 questions:
      • 1. What is the purpose of the article?
      • 2. What are the author's main arguments (Look in the Introduction, or toward the end of the Literature Review. You might also find this near a Hypothesis or Research Question. Sometimes you have to distil the argument from a paragraph).
      • 3. What new contribution does this article make to the field? (Essentially... why does this study matter? You may find this in the Literature Review)
  • READING 3: This is your final pass - review sections that still confuse you.
    • Read the Discussion section.
    • Take notes on the evidence and findings. (This will be in the Discussion or Conclusion. You may consult the Results section.)
    • Answer 2 questions:
      • 1. What did the author find? 
      • 2. Did the author succeed in making their argument?

Literature Review Documents