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Anthropology: Research Process

Research and Writing Resources

Conducting (Bibliographic) Research


One of the most challenging pieces of a research project can be choosing a topic. If your professor has assigned you a topic, you're ready to start researching; if not, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • First, make sure you understand your assignment. How much information will you need? How long do you have to complete the assignment? Are there specific requirements for number or type of sources?
  • Since you'll be spending some time with your topic try to pick a subject that you find interesting. Begin by thinking about subjects that have been covered in class, maybe something that has been in the news or an area of personal interest.
  • Once you've come up with some tentative topics browse through some reference sources to gather background information. This will also help you determine if your topic is too narrow (not enough information available) or too broad (information overload!).


It is best to begin researching with a broad scope and narrow down your sources as you learn more about your topic.

  1. Come up with search terms. Take a few minutes to formulate your research question and brainstorm possible keywords. This will help focus your searches and save you time.
  2. Start with OneSearch our library catalog, or WorldCat.
  3. Search some core databases for articles.
  4. Use a citation manager, such as RefWorks, to keep track of your sources.


You've found some resources for your paper, but how do you know if they're appropriate? Try these five criteria to help evaluate sources:

• What stated goals or objectives does this resource meet?
• Is its purpose commercial, educational, informative or personal?
• How detailed and factual is the information versus opinion-based?
• Is the information balanced or colored with a political, commercial, or
  religious point of view?
• If a website, does the domain indicate what type of institution published it?
• Is the resource from a peer-reviewed or scholarly journal or educational organization?
• Is the author identifiable?
• Does the author/publisher list qualifications, and can they be verified? 
• Does the author provide factual information verifiable in other resources?
• Is the information clear, legible, well organized and error-free?
• Does the author cite his/her sources? Are research methods explained?
• Is an editor, reviewer or collaborator named who verified content?
• Are topics in this resource analyzed in depth or just summarized?
• Does the resource cover all aspects of a topic or state the criteria for
  select coverage?
• Does this work substantiate other sources or update other information? 
• When was the resource produced and/or updated?
• If the resource is a website, are the links active and current?
• Is the resource referenced by other sources?

This guide was adapted from a resource available at Indiana Wesleyan University.