Step 2: Gather

Your goal is to locate, retrieve, read, evaluate, and record information related to your research question or hypothesis.

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“The next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it.”
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~ Samuel Johnson
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Library Catalogs

Reference Databases

Search Engines

About this step

In order to accomplish this, you will:

  • Search for information using internet search engines, and library resources like book catalogs and article databases.
  • Scan and read and make choices about what to print, save, or borrow from the library.
  • Evaluate your sources based on a careful consideration of the information.
  • Summarize the viewpoints and facts that you find and record exactly where you find the information so you can cite it later.

As you read, you will "interview" your sources.

  • Consider what the author is saying, when the source was written, and how the ideas are supported with facts and evidence.
  • With each sentence you read, consider the point being made. Is it logical? Is it valid? Does it change what you believe about the subject?
  • As soon as you can form a statement of what you believe to be true, jot down this statement—or thesis or revised hypothesis—your original position may change as you learn more about the topic.


  • You are on a fact-finding mission, but you will not search primarily for facts.
  • You will look for trends and patterns supported by facts.
  • In order to persuade your audience, one of whom will be your esteemed professor, you must gather evidence from reliable sources.

When do you have enough?

  • When you can make a valid statement supported with evidence–when you can persuade your audience.
  • When you have at least three good reasons that your thesis is true.
  • When you have several facts or experts to support your reasons.

Soon, you will be the consummate authority on your topic! Go get ‘em!

Where will you look for information?

The sources you need will depend on your topic. It is important to view a variety of sources to gain a broad understanding of your topic.

In these locations:

  • EZRA (Thomas Library's Catalog): to find resources at Wittenberg University (including books, journals, ebooks, DVD or VHS videos, online videos)
  • Article databases: to find articles from magazines, newspapers and academic journals
  • OhioLINK Catalog: to find resources you can borrow from other libraries in Ohio

Look for:

  • Internet web pages (including blog posts, wikis, etc)
  • Books
  • Scholarly articles
  • Magazine and newspaper articles
  • Sound recordings, including podcasts
  • Video in DVDs and streaming formats on the web
  • Historical documents and artifacts

What search tools will you use to find the best information to answer your question?

  • Internet search engines
  • Article databases
  • Library catalogs
  • Interviews

Don't forget to look for people who are experts or eye witnesses! Conduct interviews in person, on the phone, through the mail or email.

Search Tips:

  • Always look for an "advanced" option. The advanced options help you focus your search to get more relevant results!
  • Type fewer words in the search box! The more words you type, the less relevant your results will be.
  • Pick only essential words to use as search terms - searching is really just matching words.
  • Books are great places to begin research - they outline your topic for you in the Table of Contents and allow you to search for concepts in the Index.
  • Librarians use the internet too, and because they are information experts their advice can yield higher-quality results - even in web searches.
  • Library catalogs can also search by keywords, author, title, subject or date. Check for a feature that allows you to browse. A browse feature allows your to search in alphabetical order for books and authors.
  • When you find an article that is not available in full-text, ask a librarian if the item can be delivered to you through interlibrary loan.

Which keywords will you use?

Language is power! Choose your search terms carefully!

Before you search, brainstorm and create a list of keywords. Think of broad general terms and narrow specific terms. Broad terms may lead you to books or Internet pages where you can use indexes or hyperlinks to find specific subjects. Specific terms may lead you immediately to a source focused on your topic, but may not find sources that use slightly different words or spellings. Choosing the best keywords is a process that becomes easier with experience.


  • Librarians may be able to help you quickly identify relevant key terms.
  • If at first you do not succeed, try again with related words before you change search engines or databases (instead of teen, try youth or adolescent).
  • Use broader terms searching library catalogs and databases.
  • Search for specific phrases or titles by enclosing the words in quotation marks: "To be or not to be".

How will you identify the best sources to use?

You must learn to evaluate your sources. As you read an information source, ask yourself:

WHO?Who wrote this source (or site)? What are their qualifications? Are they an expert on the topic?
WHAT?What is the purpose of the source? Is it intended to entertain, inform or sell? Is the information fact or opinion? Is the information biased?
WHERE?Where does the information in the source come from? Is it documented? How do I know if it is true?
WHEN?When was the information published? Is it current?
WHY?Why should I use this source? Is it the best source of information for my purpose or topic?

Other considerations:

AND, Some technical tricks

  • PageRank™: How many other web pages link to the one you are viewing?
  • Backward links : What kinds of web sites link to one you are viewing?
  • Search Alexa™ for a web address to get information about web page traffic and linking.

How will you record what you find?

You will need to develop a system to record and organize the information you find. Good old-fashioned note cards are still an excellent tool for recording your information.

Or, you can use one of the following:

  • Notebook paper
  • Citation Management program (Zotero, EndNote or Mendeley)
  • Word processor (Microsoft Word™ or Apple Pages™)
  • Other software (PowerPoint™ or Keynote™)


  • A short summary of the main idea and the most important fact/s that support the idea.
  • Create a heading—a category that you think this information might fit into—for each point that you record. These categories are very useful in the next step.
  • Do not record every word in the source. Learn to paraphrase the source. (3 x 5 cards are useful here because they force you to take brief notes.)

How will you give credit to your sources?

Citation is the formal term for the act of crediting your sources.

Remember to record the necessary information for creating your Bibliography or Works Cited List. Write exactly where you found the information (including author, title, publisher, page numbers, specific URLs, etc.). You must provide enough information so that another researcher can locate exactly the same document. This information will be used in your final Bibliography or Works Cited page, so make careful notes.

Check with your professor to determine which format you should use for your citations. The most common and the subject areas in which they are used are:

You can use note cards to record your bibliographic information. For help, you can talk to a Writing Consultant at the Wittenberg Writing Center.

Or, use one of the following free tools, but do be careful. The citations these tools create are only as accurate as the data given to them. If there is a typo or if you do not capitalize something that should be capitalized, these tools may not fix it! Always double-check with your handbook:

The Research Project Calculator is a project funded jointly by MINITEX and MnLINK to develop Cool Tools for Minnesota secondary school students and their teachers. It is based on the original Assignment Calculator from the University of Minnesota Libraries.

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