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Research 411: Organizing Research

Use this guide to start and organize a research assignment

Talk to Your Reference Librarians

Need research help? Having trouble finding, identifying or evaluating library resources? That is what your CSM librarians are here to do.  

La Plata 301-934-7626 Leonardtown 240-725-5360 Prince Frederick 443-550-6061

Research list

A More Complete List of Lists Every Researcher (i.e. student) Should Keep

1. Keywords from thinking, brainstorming, background reading, or a thesaurus

2. Relevant call numbers, to use for both shelf and online browsing purposes

3. Subject headings from the fullest display in an online catalog and subject descriptors from every relevant article database

4. Authors and scholars whose work is repeatedly mentioned by others

5. Titles of peer-reviewed journals and popular periodicals

6. Titles of relevant reference tools related to the research project

7. Publishers that seem to specialize in the field

8. Institutions, associations, societies, or government agencies that focus on the area of interest

9. Dates, such as the life span of key people, the exact date of a major event, or the publication year of primary sources

10. Order of the steps taken to obtain background information and discover sources, including the navigation path leading to electronic resources and the address of useful Web page

(Elements of Library Research, 2008, pp. 82)

Looking for more information

1.    Follow the Bibliographic trail

  • Look for review of research in the first few paragraphs of journal articles
  • Skim index of useful sources to identify authors mentioned on four or more pages
  • Skim bibliographies of recent books on your research topic; look at any work mentioned in all or most of them, along with other publications by its author 

2.    Browse the shelves via call number browse in the online catalog

  • Search by subject headings to identify other sources. This can lead to more sources and sometimes through endless trails.
  • Search by keywords from your research question. If there are too many titles start with titles published in the last ten years
  • Use the keywords list from library databases to find more articles. This is done by selecting a recent scholarly article and clicking on keywords in the article entry.

3. Footnote chasing: Used to identify important works in a field of study by following the cited references from the bibliography of an article.

  • “To take full advantage of [an] article. Look carefully at its list of works cited to see what sources the writer used.” (The Elements of Library Research pp. 122)
  • Works may be listed in a bibliography because of its overview of previous research, primary sources or research methodology, data interpretation, and illustrations or figures.

4. Citation tracking: Used to follow the development of ideas from an article by following the cited references in another article. Easily done using Ebsco or ProQuest cited references tab.

  • Helps to determine the influence of an author’s interpretations, findings, research, and conclusions in research being conducted in a field. 
  • In this case, the work may be cited for its use of research techniques, unique findings, and interpretations of data. 

5.    Browse the library’s Reference collection

6.    Do a preliminary search in Google Scholar to see what is available on your research topic

7.    Check the tables of content of relevant print and electronic journals to uncover promising articles, check journal issues from the prior ten years

8.    Talk to Your Reference Librarians


(A manual for writing, 2007, pp. 29-32)

Consider the Following

 Have you tried NoodleTools? 

Use NoodleTools throughout a research project to track your sources, take notes, create outlines, collaborate with classmates, and format and print your bibliography.