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University of Minnesota

Kathryn A. Martin Library

WRIT 3140: Advanced Writing: Human Services Research Guide

This guide provides resources for Advanced Writing: Human Services.

Start Your Research Tutorial

Find Background Information

Begin with a general idea of your topic then look for information to help you focus on specific concepts, generate keywords for your searches, and narrow down the topic. In this part of the process you're browsing and doing a little reading to get familiar with the topic and generate ideas.

  • Start with a basic source like Wikipedia to get definitions and background info.
  • Popular sources such as newspapers or magazines provide general information on current issues. 
  • Books are also helpful for background reading, even scanning the table of contents can help you learn about your topic. 

One Perfect Source

It's easy to believe that your searching will turn up articles that directly address your topic in detail. Really, you'll need to look at many articles and piece together information from each one. Gather more than you'll need. Review the articles, then choose the ones that will help you write.

Why Use Library Resources?

It may be tempting to think....Isn't everything on the internet? Can't I just use Google and Wikipedia for my research?

While Google, Wikipedia, and other internet sources can be useful, you don't want to rely on them for your research. Why not?

  • Not everything is openly accessible on the internet. The UMD Library subscribes to and purchases high quality resources that are not available on the internet.
  • Information overload: using a search engine, like Google, often means that you get thousands or millions of results. Library databases are organized in such a way that the results are more manageable. This allows you to find the best resources for your topic quickly.
  • Authority & accuracy: keep in mind that anyone can create or edit an entry in Wikipedia. Anyone can create a website. How will you know if the author is an expert? How will you verify the information?
  • Your professors want to see high quality, scholarly sources cited in your papers. Impress them by using library resources!

Is it ever okay to use Google or Wikipedia?

  • If you need background information about a topic before you research it, looking in a place like Wikipedia can be helpful. You can also find background information and overviews of various topics by using online encyclopedias at the UMD Library.
  • Think of internet resources as a starting point, but NEVER a stopping point. Always go beyond Wikipedia!