Although a great deal of academic research takes place in the library and on the Web, these are by no means the only places where you can collect data and information for college research papers. There are times when other sources can provide more direct, specific and useful material.
Suppose, for instance, that you wanted to find out how your own community was responding to a water shortage brought about by the summer's drought. Because your question refers to a local situation, it is unlikely that you would turn up much useful information in the sorts of national and international publications that make up the bulk of a university library's holdings. Instead, you would want to gather information locally - perhaps looking for materials such as announcements published by city officials, walking around the reservoir or arranging interviews with city council members, employees at the local water works plant or members of local citizens' action groups. Local news broadcasts on radio or television and locally published newspapers are other potential sources of information. Keep in mind that firsthand research can be especially effective when used in combination with library and Web research.
Experts whom you consult in person can sometimes provide you with brochures or in-house publications on your topic that are not readily available in libraries or on the Web. Other potentially helpful sources include television and radio broadcasts, documentary films and informational pamphlets published by professional organizations or special interest groups.
To continue the section on Researching Your Topic
1. Set up a general search strategy
2. Use primary and secondary sources
3. Do original research
4. Make a research outline for using the library and the Web
5. Find things out for yourself
6. Be open to serendipity
7. Take notes
8. Manage sources and quotations
9. Manage and evaluate electronic sources