Where to search
Using the University Libraries online catalog, you can both browse our physical and digital holdings and you can search for known items. Visit lib.umn.edu to get started with searching. The first think you'll see is the Libraries Search box
You can also search our subject guides to find resources on a specific topic. You can find a link to the research guides on the homepage of the libraries website. These are lists of databases and resources that the librarian who is responsible for that area has put together that are the best fit for that topic. If you ever have questions about a database listed on a guide you can reach out to that librarian and they will be happy to help!
Once you have decided where to search here are some tips that can help in finding the best sources for what you need. You can also check out the library tutorial creating an effective search strategy to learn more about these tips.
Putting quotes around a phrase tells the database that you want those words in that exact order. For example "genetic sequence" instead of genetic sequence.
Scholarly words and spell out acronyms and abbreviations
Try to use scholarly words for your topic. Try thinking about who has created the sources you are looking for and how they would talk about the subject. For example a geneticist might use the scientific name of the organism they are working with instead of the common name.
It can also be helpful to think of any synonyms, or other words that mean the same thing, that you can use in your searching. This way if different experts are talking about the same topic in different ways you can still find them.
Limits and advanced search
Improve your search results by using checkboxes, drop down lists, and filters (just like a shopping website). For example you can limit your search to scholarly or peer reviewed or a particular date range.
Use the resources you find to locate more
Once you have found a good source you can use it to find more like it by
- Looking at the title and/or abstract for additional keywords
- Looking at the reference list to see if any of the sources the author used to write their work can also be useful to you.
- Looking at what sources have cited your original source to see if they fit your needs.
- For more information about using sources to find more sources check out the library tutorial using citations to find journal articles and books
Giving credit and avoiding plagiarism
A very basic definition of plagiarism is to take someone else's work or ideas and pass them off as your own. Plagiarism can be intentional (like buying a paper from someone else or purposefully using another person’s ideas without giving them credit) or unintentional (accidentally forgetting that an idea in your notes isn’t your own and not citing it when you include it in a paper or project). It’s important to take detailed notes so you’ll always remember when and where to give credit to your sources! Citations are used to give credit to others ideas and have two parts. One is a short note in the text of your writing and the other is the complete information about the source material in the references list or bibliography.
By citing the sources you use for your research, you’ll be accomplishing three things:
You’ll avoid plagiarizing and give proper credit to your sources, thereby demonstrating academic integrity.
You’ll demonstrate the scope of your research and establish your credibility on your topic.
You’ll provide your reader with a trail to follow to locate the sources you used so they can read more about your topic.
images such as pictures, graphs, or charts
Tip: If you ever have questions about if you should cite something double check with your instructor
Tip: Many databases (and even the Libraries catalog) include a “Cite This” button you can use to get the citation information you'll need. These automatic citation generators can make mistakes however, so be sure to double-check the formatting of the citations they create!
Tip: Citation managers are tools you can use to help manage citation information. Check out the next section for more information!
What is a citation manager?
A citation manager is a software tool used to create personalized databases of citation information and notes. They allow you to:
- import and organize citation information from article indexes and other sources,
- export your citations into Word documents or other types of publications,
- format citations for your papers and bibliographies using APA and many other styles, and
- include your own notes.
Choosing a citation manager
- Guide to Citation Managers at UMN
- Citation managers used at UMN compared
- Wikipedia's comparison of reference management software
- If you want to explore citation managers in more detail. you can use the libraries tutorial What is a citation manager and when to use one.