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Kaua'i Community College Library

Library Research Tutorials and Guides

Before starting your research, it's important to develop a search strategy. This is an organized approach for gathering information to help you find the most appropriated resources for your topic and save you time. 

  1. Identify and develop keywords.
  2. Look for an overview of your topic in reference sources, such as encyclopedias.
  3. Know how the information cycle works to match your topic to the right databases based on subject and currency of topic.

1. Identify Keywords

  • Pick out the words from your topic sentence/question that represent the main ideas
  • Build a list of keywords from these main ideas that describe your topic
  • Include synonyms

This short video from Suffolk Community College describes the process.

2. Get an Overview of Your Topic

To get an overview of your topic, the Credo Reference database is a good place to start. Other online encyclopedias are also available through the Library:

Credo Logo


Credo is an easy-to-use tool for starting research. Use this box to search hundreds of full-text reference titles, as well as 500,000+ images and audio files and over 1,000 videos.

The Library also has print reference materials to use for finding background information. Examples of print subject encyclopedias include: The Encyclopedia of Marine ScienceThe Encyclopedia of Religion (16 volumes), Encyclopedia of World Art (17 volumes), Encyclopedia of Social ProblemsThe New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians (20 volumes), Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in EnglishCRC Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics and many more.

3. Choose the Right Database

In order to choose the right database to match your topic, you need to know how the information cycle works. This video, from the University of Illinois, describes how information is created and is built upon over time. From moments following an event to many years later, the type of information you need for your research depends upon your specific research goal or topic. 

Now that you know about how information and knowledge are created over time, you can choose resources that best match your topic.

  • Social Media, Newspapers, Television provide breaking news of current event(s) posted, written or broadcast on day of event or days after.
  • Popular and News magazine articles are written for a popular audience by journalists, usually a week - several weeks after event.
  • Journal articles are written for specific academic audiences by scholars that have credentials in their respective fields, 6 months to a year or more after event.
  • Books are written by scholars and non-scholars. Scholarly works can provide in-depth examinations of topics and are usually written several months to several years after event.
  • Reference Books, such as encyclopedias, have short entries about well-documented events/topics that are very useful for background information
  • Government reports, written by local, state or federal organizations are written a year to several years after event and are focused on public policy, statistical analyses and/or legislation.