rotating globe Asking Questions
Information Studies w/ Colby Glass

To know HOW to ask a question requires several things:

1. You must be clear about the exact question.
2. You must have some terminology.
3. You should know what resources might help, e.g.
    • Encyclopedias
    • Print Indexes
    • Books
    • CD-ROMs
    • The Internet
    • Dictionaries
    • Biographical sources
    • Newspaper indexes
    • Almanacs
    • Directories
    • Manuals & Handbooks
    • Government documents

The best beginning is usually to look in a print index. The index will give you some idea of the terminology used in the subject area and will often indicate how the field is subdivided.

Remember that if you are writing a paper you should seek as narrow a subject as possible. You will never be able to read all the material about a broad subject. If you attempt a broad subject, the result will be that your paper will sound amateurish. Better to choose a very narrow subject, read the majority of the literature available on it, and be able to speak and write as an authority.

Second, remember that you do not necessarily have to find an entire book or journal on your subject. Look at books and journals about a subject area within which your subject may be included. For instance, if you are looking for information on the battle at Gettysburg, you may not find an entire book on that subject. However, many books on the Civil War may cover that subject in a chapter.

At some point near the beginning you should speak with a librarian to ascertain the best resources.

For more information on this area, please read the introduction to problem solving. This goes into some detail on question analysis and refinement.

NEXT: Research Strategy

line of books

Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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