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How to Do Research at the Portsmouth Public Library

Before you start, write one sentence which fully describes your topic.   Now underline 2-4 important words.  These underlined words will be your key words.  You will use them repeatedly in online research.

Example:  I will examine the effect of volcano eruptions on our weather.

Note:  Don't use such common words as "of" or "on" as key words.  They will make your search too big.

Do you know the basic facts about your topic?
What you might need to know:
                        Definitions of all the words
                        What period of history are we talking about?
                        Who were the important contributors to my field of study?
                        How does my topic fit in with other similar topics?

If not, go to an encyclopedia to read up on it a little.

Hint:  This step is especially important if you need to finish your work before you can get to the library to find a book.

Now look to see if there is a book in the library that will help you.  The best time to use a book is when you want an overview, or a lot of information on one topic.  A book can give you an introduction and a whole lot more.

Go to the online Library Catalog
Hint:  Search by keyword.

Now look for articles from magazines.  The best time to use an article is when you want to look at one particular aspect of your topic.  Sometimes a really good article can also give you the overview just like a book does.

Try the online databases in EbscoHost. You can access them from home or in the library.

Choose the right database for your grade and topic.  You might find a great article right here, right now.  Use your key words.

Now is a good time to go to the World Wide Web.  The Web can give you very up-to-date information.  Be sure to take information only from people who you can trust. 

Hint:  Use what you learned from the encyclopedia to help you search the Web.  Remember, you now have an overview of your topic to help you.

Some good search engines to use for homework are:
        •     Little Clickers
        •     Internet Public Library Youth DivisionStudy Web  

There are some sites on the internet especially meant to help students with homework.  Try these:

        •     Ask Jeeves Kids
        •     Homework Center at Multnomah Public Library  

Can we help you now?    
Call Youth Services at 766-1740   or email us:

Better yet, come in to the library!  We'd be happy to see you.

Don't forget to write down or print out your sources.  Do you need to make a bibliography?  You can get help from one of these sites: