Research Process: Search Strategy

Guide to the research process.

Search Strategy

Once you have determined the topic for your project, you will need to search for information. There are many types of information sources available for your research. The professor's guidelines and the topic of your research will determine the types of sources that are the most appropriate: books, journals, newspapers, dissertations, websites, and audio or video recordings.

Questions to Consider: Search Strategies

  • What kinds of resources may help?
  • Is my topic a current issue, or do I need a historical perspective?
  • Will I need primary or secondary sources?
  • Can I use information gathered from websites, or do I need to use the library's research databases?


Types of Sources



Primary: a first person account by someone who experience or witnessed an event

  • First person account of an event
  • First publication of a scientific study
  • Speech or lecture
  • Original artwork
  • Handwritten manuscript
  • Letters
  • A diary

Secondary: a secondary source is one step removed from the original source. The author is reexamining, interpreting, and drawing conclusions based on the information that is conveyed in the primary source.

  • A newspaper reporting on a scientific study
  • Review of a music CD or an art show
  • Biography

Tertiary: a tertiary source is further removed from the primary source. It leads a researcher to a secondary source, rather than the primary source.

  • Bibliography
  • Index to articles
  • Library catalog

Types of Magazines and Journals



Popular Magazines

Trade Journals

Scholarly Journals


All readers

Professionals working in a specific field. Example: Nurses

Scholars and Students


Glossy paper, many ads and pictures

Glossy paper, short articles, many ads and pictures

Research articles with charts and graphics, few pictures


Freelance writers or journalists hired by magazine

Members of the profession

Professors, scholars or teachers in the field


Entertain and inform

Keep professionals up to date with trends in the field

Publish new research in the field


Very few citations

Very few citations

References are listed at the end of each article


Articles reviewed by magazine’s editors

Articles reviewed by magazine’s editors

Articles undergo peer-review by scholars within the same field


Published weekly or monthly

Published weekly or monthly

Published a few times a year, quarterly


Time, People

Advertising Age, Education Week

Higher Education Research & Development



Information Cycle

Understanding how information sources differ in terms of authority, timeliness, and accessibility will help you determine the correct information sources for your research project. View the video to see the role that blogs, newspapers, books, journals, and websites play in the information cycle of an event.


If your professor allows you to include websites in your research, you can use a search engine such as Google to search for resources. Keep in mind that you will need to evaluate the validity of material found on websites and it is a good idea to verify the information from a second source.