When does "looking for information" become "doing research"? You might think of research as something related to colleges and universities, but even those of us who haven't been in school in years might need to do higher-level information-seeking. For example, you could be:
- An independent journalist who needs statistics on the criminal justice system for an article.
- A novelist who needs information about the publishing world in 1950s New York City for a work of historical fiction.
- A community member who needs data about soil contamination in her part of Greenpoint.
- An entrepreneur who needs to assess the viability of opening a retail craft store in Flatbush.
Part of moving to a higher level of comfort with information-seeking is being able to decide which format (or formats) is going to be the most useful for you to search in, depending on what you need. For example, are you looking for primary source material from the time when Brooklyn became a part of New York City? You'd be better off starting with a periodical database such as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle rather than Googling it. Or maybe you're looking for up-to-the-moment information about an event, such as a storm or a demonstration or a political debate. In that case, you'd probably want to make use of the microblogging platform Twitter.
You also want to know the how, in addition to the where, of searching. For example, if you're using a search engine to find specific types of information, such as reports or data sets, it will help to try a filetype limiter so that you retrieve only PDFs or spreadsheets.
The BPL catalog lets you find out what books (as well as DVDs, audiobooks, eBooks, and other formats) we offer for your use. But did you know that through interlibrary loan, you have access to books from other libraries around the country, including in universities? WorldCat and LibraryThing are among the catalogs you can search to find out what books are out there in the world, outside of BPL. Amazon and Google Books are other resources, and they also offer some "previews" into the text of the books themselves.
At the Library
Schedule a half-hour appointment with a librarian through our free Book a Librarian service. Come away with ideas and strategies to help you focus your topic, find new sources, or simply get started with your research.
Handouts and Guides
BPL has a YouTube channel for all of our instructional videos. Learn how to use some of the electronic resources we subscribe to. For example, here's why you might want to use the JSTOR database.
Recommended Online Resources
Doing Research on the Internet (Learn the Net): A plain-language guide to getting started with doing more in-depth searching online.
A Short Guide to Free Academic Search (JURN): A list of resources for people interested in the arts and humanities. Some of the resources are UK- or European-focused.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.