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Library Research Guides
Trinity College
Library & Information Technology Services

Getting Started with Library & IT at Trinity

What is the Research Process?

We often think of research as a linear process in which we move neatly in a straight line from one step to another to our end goal of finishing the paper or project and submitting it for a grade.

In reality, research is an iterative process, or one in which we refine and improve upon our work throughout to get to our desired goal. While doing research, you should expect to go back to and repeat various steps in the process; don't get discouraged!

Reality of the Research Process

Diagram of the research process, beginning with "project assigned." The next step is a circle including "select a topic," "test topic," and "Find & skim/read sources," with "revise" in the center. Next are "Read, Organize, Expand, Narrow, Find more" and "Write, Revise, Edit," two steps with arrows going back and forth between them. Finally, the last step is "submit."

Research as a college student

Research in college is different in many ways from what you may have experienced in the past. 

In most of your classes you will select your own research topics and navigate the process yourself. Typically you will be required to investigate a range of databases and other search tools, using search terms that best fit your topics to find information sources. You'll be asked to consider the information you discover in these databases critically, reading and evaluating not only what is said, but the perspectives and biases of the creators/authors of the sources. You will determine how these sources might be relevant to your overall research and how they relate to each other.

You now have tremendous power to make statements of analysis and interpretation that form the core of research as a college student. 

Study papers

Google and research

One important question to consider is: "why don't we just use Google for all of our research and forget about the library?"

It's a valid question, but one that can be answered simply: Google doesn't have everything you need.

More importantly, library databases give you access to information that is not freely available to the general public on Google.

This doesn't mean that Google is "bad." Sometimes Google might be the perfect place to find what we need! It really depends on the topic, or the type of resource we are looking for.

Research is ultimately about expanding our knowledge and expertise. The more information we find from a greater diversity of sources, the richer the experience can be.

Getting started with research topics

Getting Started with Topics by RIT Communications

Research sources

Sometimes it can be challenging to determine whether a source is valid, relevant, trustworthy, and it meets our assignment requirements, or even knowing the different types of sources. 

There are two main types of sources we look for in academic research: secondary and primary.

SecondaryUsually are journal articles and books created by scholars or experts in a particular field of study that are found in library databases and resources. These sources provide analytical interpretations and analyses.

Primary: Evidence of an original nature created by individuals or groups directly connected to a time, place, event or subject area. Represent the perspectives and worldviews of their creators and do not represent all voices. 


Check out this additional information on evaluating sources that may help answer some of your questions:

Evaluating Sources: CRAAP Method (University of Northern British Columbia)

Evaluating Sources: SIFT Method (UNC Pembroke)

Search tool: OneSearch

An image of the Trinity College OneSearch logo

Discover the extensive resources available in the Library, including books, journal articles, textbooks, news, streaming video, and audio, by conducting searches with your chosen keywords and search terms in OneSearch.

For the most comprehensive exploration, consider trying different types of searches using the Everything Search or a Trinity Catalog search.

Everything Search: This search option provides the broadest scope, returning results from an extensive collection of scholarly resources, encompassing journal articles, ebooks, books, and media.

Trinity Catalog Search: With this search, you can access results for books, eBooks, and media held within Trinity College and the Watkinson Library.

To further tailor your results, make use of the "Refine my results" options. You can limit your search to items available online or physically accessible in the library. Additionally, you have the flexibility to include or exclude specific material types, dates, authors, subjects, or library locations, ensuring that your search yields precisely what you need. Happy exploring!

Search tool: JSTOR

An image of the JSTOR logo

JSTOR stands out as one of the top databases to discover books, journal articles, and various other sources for your research needs. You can easily download PDFs directly from its database, providing the option to save them for future reference or print them out as needed.

This remarkable resource offers a vast array of information on diverse topics, making it an excellent platform for conducting comprehensive research.

Search tool: Databases A-Z

You'll discover an extensive collection of materials, including journal articles, eBooks, news sources, primary sources, audio, streaming video, and much more when you connect to resources on the Library's A-Z Database page.

As a Trinity student, you can access all of these invaluable resources, regardless of whether you're on or off campus.

When on campus, ensure you're connected to the eduroam wifi network for smooth access. If you're off campus, make sure you go through the links on the Library's A-Z Database page, where you'll be prompted to enter your Trinity username and password. Happy researching!

Search tool: Online Library Research Guides and Reading Lists

On our Library Research Guides page, you'll discover a wide selection of meticulously curated resources crafted by our expert librarians. These guides cater to specific subject areas such as History or Psychology, offering valuable insights into research sources and effective strategies.

Additionally, we provide specialized course-related guides, custom-tailored to match the curriculum of Trinity's courses. Moreover, our specialty guides delve into topics like Data and Statistics utilization, as well as Government Information access.

What's more, we take pride in our mini reading list guides, thoughtfully compiled by students, faculty, and librarians. These reading lists span a diverse range of subjects, including Antiracism, Banned and Challenged books, and resources concerning Indigenous communities in the United States.

Citing sources and creating bibliographies

Citing sources is an essential aspect of research, as it demonstrates the credibility of the information used in your papers and projects.

At Trinity, our dedicated librarians are readily available to assist with any queries you may have regarding citations. Feel free to contact us directly, schedule an appointment, or refer to our comprehensive Cite Source guide. This guide offers valuable insights into creating citations in various formats, such as MLA, Chicago, and APA, ensuring you can confidently cite your sources accurately and appropriately. Rest assured, we're here to support you throughout your research journey!

Meet with a librarian for research help

Whenever you have a question or need assistance with a project for any of your classes, our dedicated research librarians are available to support you at any point in the process!

We offer guidance in various areas, including:

1. Developing Research Questions and Topics: We can help you refine and shape your research questions and topics to ensure they align with your academic objectives.

2. Effective Search Strategies: Learn how to identify and use effective search words to find relevant and reliable information for your project.

3. Exploring Resources and Databases: Understand the capabilities of various resources and databases, and how to utilize them efficiently.

4. Information Source Discovery: We can assist you in searching for and discovering credible and authoritative sources relevant to your project.

5. Citations and Bibliographies: Receive support in creating accurate citations and well-structured bibliographies or works cited pages.

Feel free to sign up for a one-on-one research appointment whenever you require personalized assistance. Our librarians are here to empower you with the skills and resources needed for successful academic research.

LinkedIn Learning and Digital Literacy Skills

LinkedIn Learning provides a platform for individuals to acquire diverse skills in business, software, technology, and creativity, assisting them in achieving both personal and professional objectives. To begin your learning journey, we recommend exploring the "Digital Learning Skills" learning path. This path offers a comprehensive understanding of working with operating systems, applications, and productivity tools like Microsoft Word and Excel. Additionally, it empowers you to navigate the online world with confidence. Take the first step towards your growth and development by exploring this enriching learning path today!