Guest Contributor: Katherine Johnson.

Whether writing a research paper, or tracking down reliable sources to support our ideas, library research is a skill that can help you ensure that your information is sound. Katherine Johnson, Adult Services Librarian at Highlands Ranch Library, Douglas County Libraries, outlines tips to make library research effective, manageable, and enjoyable. Share this information with your students, or use them to brush up on best practices that you can apply when doing your own research at the library.
Though library research can seem like a daunting task, it does not have to be. With these tips, effective library research can be fun, enlightening and lead you in unexpected directions.

  1. Talk to a librarian. When you are unsure of where to begin, start with the librarian. Their work is largely comprised of seeking information and they are familiar with a wide range of sources. During your visit, the librarian will conduct a reference interview asking guided questions to help streamline the focus of your search. With this information, they can help you locate relevant print or electronic sources. Librarians are a valuable resource.
  2. Think outside the box. A logical starting point is figuring out what subject area the topic falls into; don’t feel limited to this subject area alone. There may be sources in other subject areas that might be helpful. For example, when researching Molly Brown, you might start with books or databases with information related to the sinking of the Titanic. However, biographies, biographical databases or biographical reference books may uncover lesser known information on her life and accomplishments.
  3. Use a variety of sources. When conducting research, consider all the options and formats of information available: non-fiction books, reference books, subject databases, newspaper and article databases, electronic reference books, primary sources and documentaries.
  4. Talk to peers, teachers, colleagues, and professors. Sometimes the best ideas can come from short conversations. Brainstorming a topic leads to ideas and new directions that could be taken with your research.

Library research can be fun and manageable when you have these skills in your repertoire. Start with a librarian and see where your research takes you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; assisting you with your information needs is what they love most.

Katherine Johnson is an Adult Services Librarian at Highlands Ranch Library, a location of the Douglas County Library District.