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Research Survival Guide   Tags: dny, english_composition, scholarly_communication, scientific_inquiry  

Last Updated: Mar 23, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

(1) Assess Info Needs Print Page

Helpful Links


Term Paper Research workshops

Term Paper Research:    Need help with your research? This workshop covers all the bases, and includes choosing a research topic, making a broad topic more specific, finding scholarly sources to support your thesis, evaluating sources, citing sources and avoiding plagiarism.

On the following dates workshops will be held about term paper research.

Mon Feb 9,   2:00pm – 3:00pm,    - Q-Library 307 register
Wed Mar 4,   1:00pm – 2:00pm,   Q-Library 307 register
Wed Apr 1,   1:00pm – 2:00pm,   Q-Library 307 register
Wed Apr 22,   1:00pm – 2:00pm,   Online meeting room (O), register

Or you can Request a one-on-one appointment or schedule a workshop


Know Your Assignment

ΠKnow Your Assignment: Assess Information Needs

BEFORE YOU START your research, make sure you understand what your professor wants from you. If something is unclear, ask questions.

Quantity For a very short assignment, you might only need one or two books, articles, or web sites. For a longer assignment you will need a larger quantity and variety of sources.

Scholarly vs. Popular Professors generally prefer students use scholarly resources instead of popular resources.

Scholarly Sources:

Specific audience

Written by experts in same or related field

Layout is plain

Include references

Peer-reviewed by experts

Popular Sources:

General audience

Written by Journalists, or "layperson"

Layout is flashy

No references

Not peer-reviewed

Fact vs. Opinion Your research should be based primarily on fact, not opinion.

  • Facts are verifiable: “Bill O’Reilly works for Fox News.”
  • Opinions are open to argument: “The media has a right-wing bias.”

Currency:   Information for some topics becomes outdated very quickly, especially in fields such as the sciences and social sciences. In fields such as the humanities (history, theology, literature…), the publication date of the information may not matter.

Primary and Secondary Sources

A primary source gives a first-hand account of the subject matter. Examples include: autobiographies, artifacts, diaries, letters, newspaper articles, paintings, data-sets from science experiments.

  • The strength of primary sources is that they give you an intimate view of your subject.
  • The weakness of primary sources is that they tend to have a narrower scope than secondary sources, they do not provide as much perspective on a subject.

A secondary source gives a second-hand account of the subject matter. Examples include: biographies, histories, literary criticism, movie reviews, write-ups of Scientific findings.

  • The strength of secondary sources is that they analyze and interpret numerous sources (often including primary), and are useful for providing overview and perspective.
  • The weakness of secondary sources is that they are prone to factual error, and may be biased by the author’s interpretation of facts.

Keep in mind that primary and secondary sources come in different formats, including interviews, photographs, paintings, video documentaries, etc. If you need to finding or citing information in a format that is not covered in this Guide, you can always AskUs.


Upcoming Library Workshops



Our librarians are ready to assist you with your research 7 days a week, so stop by the reference desk at the library if you need some help. If you’re not on campus, you can call us at 718-990-6727 (Queens) or go to or use our AskUs Service to submit a question and we’ll email you an answer.

In addition to services at the Reference Desk, you can set up a one-on-one consultation with a librarian who will advise you on effective research strategies.  Each St. John's librarian has an additional subject specialty and is available to participate in your session, when needed.  

For further information, please contact: Prof. Lucy Heckman, (718) 990-6571 (Queens Campus), or Lois Cherepon (718) 390-4521 (Staten Island Campus).


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