When starting a research project, it is helpful to find background sources that will give you an overview of a topic. You can find strong foundational information in encyclopedias by searching the library's catalog. Encyclopedias are considered Reference Sources. Your professor may not allow you to use an encyclopedia chapter as a resource in your paper; however, you can use the encyclopedia chapter to understand basic concepts, moving on to other books on the topic that you can use in your research paper.
Search the library catalog for print and online books. Check out this brief tutorial on how to use the OneSearch catalog
You may need to think bigger than your specific topic. For example, paper waste is part of refuse and refuse disposal. Doing a search for the larger topic results in an encyclopedia that covers all types of refuse, including paper waste.
After reading about the larger problem of paper waste, move on to books on the topic. Books provide good overviews and known solutions to problems. A search for litter OR trash in the catalog results in several books that discuss the environmental and social aspects of the topic. Here are a few examples:
Search for articles from periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals) in the following databases. Use keywords that you found in the encyclopedia article or book chapters to help you locate articles on specific topics.
Use your keywords to locate articles on your topic, for example a search for paper waste AND legislation will retrieve articles dealing with rules, regulations, and laws. Here are some other keyword combination examples:
paper waste AND environmental justice
paper AND waste management
paper waste AND recycling
waste treatment AND disposal
There is no one perfect search. Searches may need tweaking as you go--change your keywords (vocabulary) as you learn new terms and synonyms for your topic.
Newspaper articles are an excellent example of local news. You will find articles addressing issues, such as littering, on a local level. For example, you may not find any articles about paper trash in Bakersfield, but you may find out how other cities and towns manage the problem and you can apply that method to solving the problem locally.
Magazines will be more regional or job focused. For example, you will find articles in waste management trade magazines that address how the industry is dealing with the issues of waste management and disposal. You can also choose articles by location, for instance by state, e.g. California.
The following databases include newspaper, magazine and scholarly sources. For help navigating databases, check out What is a database and how do I use it?