Assessing Research Questions

Successful research begins with an understanding of the issue and the identification of potential sources of information. Think about potential resources. Ask yourself, "Who cares about this topic or material?" Do not reduce the issue to keywords as you would in an online research system. Instead, if necessary, use keywords that describe a potential source of information.

Below appears a general guide for selecting finding tools based on the type of information sought. A good initial strategy employs the use of a finding tool to locate a relevant government, trade association, advocacy group, or professional organization Web site.

Research Question
Considerations
Finding Tools
Familiar topic or issue Do you know of a source? It may not be a title, but a type of document. For example, the answer to my question may appear in federal regulations or an agency's guidance documents. Or, an encyclopedia, telephone directory, or treatise. Specific Research Starting Points

Browsing

People

and also ...

Topical or General Research Starting Points

Databases and Search Tools


Overview of a topic Is it a broad (illegal drug use, housing options for the elderly) or specific (medicinal value of marijuana, viatical settlements) topic? Can you identify key descriptive words or phrases about the topic? Synonyms?

Please note!Successful use of databases and search tools may depend on your ability to identify keywords and phrases that adequately describe the topic. Utilities like Guidebeam and Oingo may also help. Consider using thesauri and any additional terms you encounter while conducting research.

Specific Research Starting Points (especially for broad overviews; e.g., encyclopedias, government Web sites, treatises)

Databases and Search Tools (e.g., articles and other commentary provide overviews)

Topical or General Research Starting Points (look for government, trade association, advocacy group, or research institute Web sites that cover your topic)


Vast or in-depth coverage Must you find everything? Conducting due diligence? Academic scope? Need resources beyond the scope of the Web?

Please note!Remember print and other resources not available via the Web.

Databases and Search Tools

Topical Research Starting Points

Topical or General Research Starting Points (look for government, trade association, advocacy group, or research institute Web sites that cover your topic)


Current issue or information Will a news source help? Who is the source, or who cares (e.g., organization, agency, association, an individual)? Do you need a fact (stock quote, telephone number, currency exchange rate)? Databases and Search Tools (especially for current news sources)

Topical or General Research Starting Points

People

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This chart appears in Teaching Internet Research Skills, a teaching Web of The Virtual Chase at URL https://www.virtualchase.com/researchskills/research5.html.