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The Research Process

In this research guide, learn the steps and strategies for an effective research process. Contact a librarian for assistance!

Icon of a magnifying glass over three word bubbles In order to answer the question or thesis you've developed on social media and disinformation, you will need to use some specific information skills to locate relevant & reliable sources that will provide perspectives and evidence.

On this page, you will find resources on some foundational ideas like identifying source types, knowing when to use Google vs. The Library, and how to choosing effective keywords. 

Once you're ready to start finding sources, use the pages on the left to learn about specific resources. 

Identifying Source Types

Types of Sources

In the past, scholars were limited in the types of sources that were available - mostly books or newspapers existed. In our current information landscape, there are many different sources types with varying purposes, content, and reliability.

Knowing what information exists within source types and what questions to ask about them will 1) help you figure out if you are using the best sources for your task and 2) select where to search. 

Limit by Source Types

One strength of the Pace Library databases is the option to narrow down search results by type of source. This is something that's not as easy on Google and can make it easier to locate relevant sources! 

  • When you click search and have a list of results, see the options on the left (or right depending on the database!) to check the appropriate boxes to limit by type of source. 
  • Need scholarly, academic articles? Check the Article button to remove the other types of sources and speed up your review of sources!

Source Types

Purpose, Contents, & Examples

Books (Examples of books such as The Stone Wall Reader and What To Do When You’re New)

  • Lengthy discussions of topics.
  • Books often take years to research, write, and then get published.
  • Usually involves an editorial process of review but not for self-publishing.

Scholarly Journals (Examples of journals such as Research in African Literatures, Applied Mathematics, and Language in Society)

  • Written & reviewed by scholars or experts in the field.
  • Can be challenging to read and understand for non-experts
  • They often reveal trends or developments, & this could include in professions or careers.

Newspapers (Examples of newspapers such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Journal-News)

  • Written by professional journalists.
  • Purpose is to keep the public up to date on current events.
  • Most newspapers follow a set of journalistic guidelines to report events

Magazines (Examples of magazines such as Rolling Stone, National Geographic, and The New Yorker)

  • Written for a general, educated audience rather than for professionals or scholars.
  • Many cover current affairs and politics while other are more about entertainment and human interest.

Trade Journals (Examples of trade journals such as Harvard Business Review, Advertising Age, and American Libraries)

  • Written by an expert, a professional in the field, or staff writers and reviewed by an editor for style & content. (Not the same as peer-review)
  • Different than scholarly articles because they report updates in a field, not always research

More Source Types

Media: Radio, TV, Videos, Podcasts

Media varies in purpose, content & reliability and should be evaluated!

Government Reports

As government agencies research current issues, they publish their findings and make them available to the public.

Conference Papers

These presentations are written by professionals in a field about a current topic & given at annual events.

Social Media

Social media posts also vary in purpose, content & reliability and should be evaluated!


Created by Jessica Kiebler, Pace University

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Library vs. Search Engines

Professors frequently tell students to exclusively use the library for their research. And students might wonder why we even need a library now that we have the internet and Google? It's a fair enough question!

The video below will provide some examples of how these two valuable resources differ as well as their strengths and weaknesses as information tools. 

Language Differences When Searching

Search Words on the Web

In Google searches, you just type in anything: ​a question, a sentence, phrases, whatever comes to mind. ​This usually works for our personal lives and personal needs, and it may work for getting started on a research project.

For example, if you searched for colleges using renewable energy on Google, you will receive results like those below which include lists of colleges and governmental reports. 

Search Words in the Databases

Some databases work more effectively when specific language and keywords are used which can include the use of Boolean Operators - AND, OR, and NOT. You have more control over where the search words appear. 

How do you craft searches using Boolean Operators? Visit Step 4: Strengthen Your Search Methods for tips on creating effective searches.

Consider your topic, your research question/thesis statement and the source types we learned about on this page. Based on the information you need to find, where do you think you should search first? Where would that information most likely be found? Make a list of places you'd like to search and what you hope to find. For example, if you need original research about renewable energy, you would start the Pace Library databases.