This should be obvious. You can't solve your information needs without actually going out and finding the information.
What are the possible resources you can use?
Hopefully, you have already defined your topic. Now think about where you might find information that contains your topic. Would you be able to find it in a book? in an article? on the Web? Also, double check the assignment. Some professors are very particular about which resources you use. Are there any limitations?
Which ones are the best?
Beginning searching in the resource(s) that has the highest chance of containing what you need. Here's a breakdown of commonly used resources:
|Books||Books offer an in-depth look at a topic. Many books take years of research to write and can provide detailed insight and analysis. Books can place your topic in a historical context and give you key background information for your research. However, books are usually not a good place to find the very latest trends and research on a subject.|
|Reference Books||Reference books consist of compiled information. They tend to be things like encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, etc. Reference books are usually good for quickly finding information about your topic but they don't go in-depth as "regular" books nor do they present opinions or detailed experiments.|
|Journals||Journal articles can also give an in-depth look at a topic. However because they are so much shorter than books, they can't really provided the detail or historical context that books do. The biggest advantage to journal articles is their timeliness. Journals provide the very latest information, sometimes years before books.|
|Websites||Websites are often the quickest way to find information. However, the problem is that a great deal of information on the Web is not reliable. Anyone can make a website and anyone can write whatever they want on that website. If you use websites, first check and make sure that your professor allows it (many don't). Also, learn how to evaluate websites and tell the good from the bad.|
|Microfilm||Microfilm are small plastic sheets or rolls that have pages of information shrunk down to a very small size. You will need a special machine to read and print off the document. There are some things, like old local newspapers, that are only found on microfilm.|
Do you need help?
Sometimes you may realize that you have no idea how to start searching or you may find yourself useful a completely unfamiliar resource. Never be afraid to ask for help. That's what we're here for.