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This guide is for Peer Writing Tutors.
When you're helping a student with a paper and you realize they need better sources to back up their claims, what should you do? What if the paper is due the next day?
- Refer the student to a librarian. We're here most days and evenings. Find our hours and locations at Ask Us. (shortcut: go/askus)
- Does the student need something that's common to all kinds of research? (eg, citing sources, evaluating sources) Try the FAQ at Find Books, Articles and More.
- Does the student have more specific needs for outside sources? (eg, scholarly, discipline-specific) Try our subject guides. There's one for every academic department. (shortcut: go/guides)
- Summon: Find articles, books, videos and more in our collections.
- MIDCAT: Find books and journal titles in our collections
- NExpress: NExpress Consortium (books from 7 libraries including Middlebury)
- WorldCat: world's largest library catalog [go/worldcat]
1. Craft a research question
Write your research topic as a question. This will help you narrow your topic and give you a few search words. You'll find synonyms when you're searching. Write these down, too!
2. Search for background info
Background information will help you begin to understand your topic. Look for encyclopedias, newspapers, popular magazines and books.
3. Preview, evaluate and refine
- Take a quick look at your sources. Preview each by reading the abstract/summary, introduction and conclusion. If you’re still not sure what the source is about, skim the beginning of each section.
- Evaluate the sources. Are they useful?
- Refine your research topic. Now that you know more, what would points would you like to make in your paper? Have your research questions changed? What more do you need to know?
Scholarly journal articles can provide answers to more specific research questions.
- You can limit a search in Summon to articles from scholarly publications.
- Other subject guides will help you find discipline-specific research databases.
After you’ve read all of your sources more carefully, you’re ready to organize your thoughts and start writing. Consider getting in touch with a peer writing tutor for advice. Also consult Writing Guides, created by the Peer Writing Tutors.