Skip to Main Content

ECON 2P10: United States Economic History

A guide to information sources for your term paper which includes tips on finding background information, books, articles, and statistics on your essay topic. There are also tips on evaluating sources, essay writing, and citing sources.

The Successful Research Process


The Keys to Success

keys to success
  • Research is always a multistep process.
  • Research is often interdisciplinary.
  • Think broadly about your topic; then narrow and refine the focus.
  • Keep a record of everything you find and where and how you find it. 

The Steps to Success

Steps to Success
  1. Identify Your Topic
  2. Gather Background Information
  3. Focus Your Research
  4. Evaluate Your Sources

Adapted from Burkhardt, J.M. & MacDonald, M.C. (2010). Teaching Information Literacy: 50 standards-based exercises for college students, 2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association. 

Research-tracking methods

1. Identify Your Topic

Steps to Success
  • Your topic is the idea you are researching.
  • Brainstorm and create a concept map of the topic.
  • Think about and visualize your topic from many different angles.
  • Note related and interrelated topics.
  • Note terminology and synonyms that can broaden your searching power.
  • Identify key concepts and list synonyms for them.

2. Gather Background Information

Steps to Success
  • Get a broad overview of the subject or topic.
  • Use both general and subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries.
  • Get more focused, in-depth, or historical background on the topic.
  • Follow up with more recent information.

3. Focus Your Research

Steps to Success
  • Gather up-to-date, current information on the topic.
  • Use appropriate periodical information from popular, trade, and scholarly sources.
  • Use high-quality, appropriate web sites.
  • Gather in-depth, focused information on the topic.
  • Search for research studies, surveys, and experiments about your topic.

Key Library Research Tools:

4. Evaluate Your Sources

Steps to Success

Identifying Academic Sources: A Checklist

  • Authoritative: written by a recognized expert in the field
  • Sourced: credits information sources in footnotes or a bibliography
  • Peer-reviewed: checked by reviewers or editors prior to publication
  • Objective: examines a topic fairly (is not biased)
  • Written for academics: the audience of the work may include students, professors, or others interested in academic research

Types of academic sources may include:

  • Books published by university presses or scholarly publishers
  • Articles in peer-reviewed journals
  • Published reports

Adapted from Identifying academic sources (Massey University Online Writing and Learning Link) 

Evaluating Internet Sources With RADAR

Relevance - How is this information relevant to your assignment?

Authority - Who is the author? What makes this person or organization an authoritative source?

Date - When was this information published and is the publication date important to you?

Appearance - Does the information look professional or academic? Does it have citations and references? 

Reason for writing - Why did the author publish this information? 


Adapted from Mandalios, J. (2013). RADAR: An approach for helping students evaluate Internet sources. Journal of Information Science, 39(4), 470-478.