Library Research Checklist

Helpful hints for starting a library research project.

Library Research Checklist

Identify and define your topic; know what you are looking for.

Take the time to write down your topic in the form of a question and consider it from all angles. Try to be specific about what it is you want to discover about your topic. Then break out key ideas or concepts.

Find background information on your topic (retrospective research).

Use textbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories and other guides to help you set the context of your research.

Make a list of keywords and phrases that describe the concepts of your topic. These should include synonyms, variations in spelling (US vs UK), word endings (singular, plural), variant terminology (electrocardiograms, electrocardiography, ECG, EKG), and related terms/concepts (cataract extraction, intraocular lens implantation).

Explore various resources (primary, secondary and tertiary) to find information on your topic.

Search article indexes to find journal articles on your topic. Search in broad interdisciplinary indexes like Libraries Search, but don’t forget to make use of subject specific databases, as well. Article indexes are sources of both primary and secondary resources. 

Use Libraries Search to also find books, government reports, printed statistical material and other resources (both print and electronic).

Search the Internet for unique, authoritative, web-based resources. Statistical information and data sets are often available on government websites, for example.

Evaluate what you find.

Take a look at your results. Are you finding too much or too little on your topic? Refine your topic if necessary to either broaden or narrow its scope. You may need to try different resources or terms, or look into article indexes that you had passed over earlier. Talk to a librarian to set up a reference consultation if you need help.

Don’t forget to properly cite what you find.

Keep detailed notes about what you find and where you found it. Citation managers like Mendeley, Zotero and EndNote can help you manage citations, insert properly formatted citations into papers, and generate bibliographies.

Scholarly vs. Popular Journals/Magazines

Use this guide to help distinguish between scholarly vs. popular journals/magazines:





  • Lancet
  • JAMA
  • Molecular genetics & genomic
  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • US News & World Report

Peer-Reviewed (Refereed)

  • Yes
  • Consists of articles that have been reviewed (refereed) by the authors’ peers – an editorial board of specialists in the field of research who evaluate the content and methodology of the author(s)’ work and results.
  • Editorial board information generally appears on the inside cover or title page
  • No

Equivalent or similar terms

  • Refereed journals
  • Primary journals
  • Popular magazine
  • General interest magazine
  • News magazine
  • Consumer magazine
  • Trade journal

Definition of or, How to recognize

  • Lengthy articles (5-50 pages)
  • Concerned with academic or scholarly study
  • These articles also contain bibliographies of cited and related works
  • Written by experts in the field
  • Includes author’s credentials and institutional affiliation
  • Uses technical or specialized vocabulary
  • Often abstract included
  • Reports original research, reviews and evaluates material that has already been published, or expands and refines theory
  • Published by a professional association, society, research association or academic institution
  • Short (1-5 pages)
  • A collection of articles about diverse topics of popular interest and current events. These articles rarely, if ever cite sources
  • Often unsigned
  • Usually no references
  • General, non-academic, non-specialized audience
  • Many photographs or other illustrations
  • Contains extensive advertising
  • Published by a commercial publisher
  • Available at newsstands & grocery stores
Last Updated: Sep 11, 2020 11:13 AM