Kristen's Search Process


Kristen is taking a speech class. She's been assigned a ten-minute informative speech on any topic she chooses. She's allowed to use newspaper articles, magazine or journal articles, books, or web sites. The speech is due in three weeks.

Click on the forward arrow to start Kristen's search. Use the arrows to move forward and back.

STEP 1: Formulate your question or statement

Tuesday morning. Kristen's home.

Her professor handed out the speech assignment in class yesterday. But she can't think of a topic. She stares vacantly at her beagle Muffy, until she thinks:

"Aha! Animal rights!"

Animal Rights

So, Kristen decides that her speech will be about animal rights, but she's not certain what focus the speech will take.

Her topic begins with the idea "animal rights." Since that's not a question or a statement, she brainstorms about possible ideas.

At this point, she realizes that she doesn't really know a lot about animal rights issues. So she decides to do some general reading to get an overview of the topic.

STEP 2: Get background information

Tuesday afternoon, on campus.

Kristen knows that encyclopedias usually provide good background information on a topic, so she goes to the reference section of her library and asks for help in locating them.

She picks up volume "A" of Academic American Encyclopedia and looks for articles on animal rights.

She's in luck! There is an article on animal rights.

In the article she finds these terms:

She writes down these terms for later use when searching databases.

More reading? Sure.

Next, Kristen looks at Encyclopedia Americana where she finds two articles. One on animal experimentation, the other on animal intelligence. She also finds the name of another organization:

The American Association for the Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care

She writes down the name of this organization for later use when searching databases.

A Note on Background Information

Kristen doesn't copy down the bibliographic information of the encyclopedias because she won't need to cite them.

The information you get from the encyclopedias will not be quoted in your paper or listed in your bibliography. You read the encyclopedia articles to give you an overview of the general topic.

STEP 3: Refine your search topic

Tuesday afternoon, continued...

Now that Kristen has general information on the topic of animal rights her mind is just spinning with possibilities. Too many possibilities.

While walking to her car, Kristen starts to realize that animal rights is a broad topic and that she needs to narrow her research to one or a few issues related to animal rights.


STEP 3: Refine your search topic

Kristen starts thinking about those terms she found in the encyclopedia articles. Then, she arrives home and sees sweet little Muffy. This makes her wonder:

"Are beagles ever used in experiments? "...and
"What animals do they test my allergy medications on...?"

That's it, she has it!

Kristen realizes that she wants to do her speech on:

"animal experimentation for medical purposes"

More specifically, she wants to focus on the ethics of animal experimentation for medical purposes.

She has now refined her topic and can proceed to find information about it.

STEP 4: Consider your resource options

Types of materials
Since her audience for the speech is a group of college students, she decides the following materials will be useful:

Time frame
Current information is needed because this topic is primarily of current interest. Since she has three weeks before her speech is due, she begins searching immediately in case she needs to borrow a book or get articles from another library (ILL-interlibrary loan) which can sometimes take a couple of weeks.

Determine subject/discipline covered:



By now Kristen has formed an opinion on animal experimentation: it's wrong. In fact, she's getting pretty worked up about it when she remembers something else her speech professor said:

"Don't allow your personal views or emotions to dictate your speech. This is an informative speech. Find objective information."

She realizes she'll have to be very careful when doing research not to let her feelings get in the way.

Time spent, Step 1- Step 4: 1 hour

STEP 5: Select the appropriate tools

Thursday afternoon, at home.

For magazine and newspaper articles, she chooses GALILEO because it's a good source for magazine and newspaper articles. Some of those articles may also include statistics.

She decides to look at GALILEO first to see if there is a reference to a Web site. If there isn't, she'll try using an Internet search engine.

She'll use GIL to find a book on her topic. GIL includes books and other materials held by University System of Georgia libraries.

STEP 6: Use the tools to perform the searches

Thursday afternoon at home.

Using the terms and organizations she noted in her background reading, she logs on to her computer to perform the searches using the tools identified in step 5.

She gets to GALILEO and selects databases based on the disciplines/subjects identified in step 4.

GALILEO > General Indexes > Academic Search Elite

She decides on this category and database because she wants most of her articles full text online.

Search for: animal experimentation
Results: 141 articles

Whoa! That's way too many articles for her to browse. So she decides to refine the search using another of the terms found in her background reading and to search another database.

GALILEO > General Indexes > Academic Search Elite

Search for: animal experimentation and ethics (limiting search to full text articles) Results: 5

Now this is more like it. She browses through this list of articles and decides to read all five.

Search Engine (Google)
She goes to the search engine Google and searches for information on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). (She found the name of the organization when she was doing her GALILEO searches.)

Search: PETA
Results: The PETA home page where there are several links which include information she thinks she can use in her speech.

She uses the broader search, animal rights, to find books because within the book on the broader topic, she may find a chapter or section on her topic.

Search for: animal rights
Results: 19

Of these, there are two that interest her. Both are at the library she's using, so she copies down the call numbers to find them in the book stacks.

Time spent, Step 5- Step 6: 2 hours

STEP 7: Locate the materials

Tuesday afternoon, the week before the speech is due.

Kristen pulls out the five articles that she found in full text on GALILEO and printed out last Thursday. As she reads the articles, she finds other terms for additional searches. She jots down those terms for later use, if necessary.

She goes to the Library, locates both books by their call number on the shelves, and checks them out.

From the PETA home page she looks at the links that have information on her topic.

STEP 8: Read the materials and analyze them for appropriateness

After examining both books on animal rights, she realizes one does not include any information on the ethics of animal experimentation. The other book, which includes a chapter on the ethics of animal experimentation, is just what she needs. She uses the second book for her speech.

After she reads the five articles from Academic Search Elite, she finds that all of the articles have information on her topic. One article is especially useful since it includes many facts and some useful statistics about the use of animals in medical and other experiments.

Some of the information from PETA's website is a bit emotional, but she does find a couple of good links with some interesting facts that she can use.

Time spent, Steps 7- 8: 3 hours

STEP 9: Organize and write your speech

Saturday afternoon.

Kristen organizes the information into a logical order and writes her speech. Her professor gave her some directions on how to do this.

Time spent, Step 9: 2 hours

STEP 10: Write your bibliography using a style manual

Using the records of the articles, book, and Web sites she used, she consults the appropriate style manual (i.e., MLA, APA, Turabian) to get instructions and see examples of how to write her bibliography.

Now she's got a day left to practice delivering the speech.

Time spent, Step 10: 15 minutes

Account of Kristen's Research Process

Total time spent: 8 hours 15 minutes
Amount of sleep: 8 hours each night
(except the last night, when someone from her class called in the middle of the night to get the GALILEO password)
Grade: A

Obviously, this was a very successful research project.

Can you tell what went right?

What went right?