Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

INT 101 Sams

last modified Aug 08, 2016 09:09 AM

This guide is intended to help you complete your research assignment for this class. If you have any questions or need additional help, please contact Amy Gratz, the librarian for this class. If Amy isn't available, use our Ask Jack Research Services to talk to another librarian for assistance.

Brainstorming Your Topic

Brainstorming image. Original from

When you first start working on an assignment, it can be very helpful to spend a few minutes thinking about your topic and where you want to go with the assignment. For some topics, you might need to start by doing pre-research, where you look for general background information on your topic to learn a little more. This background information then helps you focus your search and choose a topic to write about. Try some of the following strategies if you're not sure where to start:


  • Try to imagine what words someone answering your research question might use
  • Look up synonyms and related topics or phrases
  • Try working with a partner – getting a different perspective is often invaluable
  • Identify any common misunderstandings or related topics that you DON’T want in your results

Image "Brainstorms at INDEX: Views" by Jacob Botter, 2010. Used under the CC BY 2.0 license

Scholarly and Popular Articles

(For more information, see this guide)

Most sources of information fall into one of these two categories. Here's how they're different:

"Scholarly" (aka "academic" or "peer-reviewed") periodicals are usually published by an association, institution, or scholarly press. They contain articles written by scholars, professors, and researchers in a particular discipline, and are intended for other scholars and researchers in the field. Articles published in these journals are sent to other experts in the field to be reviewed prior to publication.

“Popular” periodicals are publications that are intended for the general public, and whose main purpose is usually entertainment. Articles in these publications are generally written by paid journalists or columnists, and reviewed by an editor.

Reasons to use Scholarly Sources:

  • They are generally the most highly valued source of information in academic circles
  • They are written by and reviewed by experts in the field
  • The information they contain critically examines some aspect of the world

Reasons to use Popular Sources:

  • They are easier to understand because they are written for the general public
  • They are more likely to contain information on recent events
  • They can give you an insight into what type of information is available to the general populace on a subject

Evaluating Sources 

In addition to knowing what type of source you have, there are several other criteria for deciding whether or not to use a source in your paper. Start with the C.R.A.P. test to do a basic evaluation:OverThink

Currency: is the information recent enough for your topic?

Relevancy: does the information relate to your topic, either directly or indirectly?

Authority: who wrote the information, and are they an authoritative source?

Purpose: what was the intent of the author when writing this information?

Once you have done a general overview of the source, you will need to do a more in-depth evaluation of the source information. I recommend starting with the introduction and conclusion of the paper, to make sure it is relevant, and written at a level you understand. At this point, you will need to do a close, critical reading of the source. Most importantly, you need to apply your own critical thinking skills: does the author's argument make sense? can you think of any counter-arguments or points they failed to consider?

Image "OverThink" by Lori Semprevio, 2010. Used under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Recommended Resources

In addition to the databases listed below, you may want to search others, depending on your topic. Use the Subject Guides to help you find good databases to search in, or ask a librarian for suggestions.

Discovery - an EBSCO service allowing you to search multiple databases and the library catalog simultaneously. This is a great resource for finding information on almost any topic, especially if you're not sure where to start. This is also the best place to search for your required "non-digital" source - just limit to the Mercer University Libraries Catalog.

Research Library - a general database providing access to scholarly journals and general magazines, many of which are available in full text. This database is not included in Discovery. 

Citing Sources

MLA Style Guide - created and maintained by the Purdue OWL, this guide covers the basics of citing in MLA style.

Also check your Little Bear Handbook, or you can come and check out the complete style guides at the library's circulation desk.

Ask Jack for more help! Librarians at the Ask Jack desk are happy to help you cite your sources or double-check your work!

Personal tools
staff intranet Library Staff