Thanks to Amy Buhler for these practical suggested steps for getting started.
1) Keep a list of search terms (authors, titles, relevant keywords, subjects, themes and concepts) from reference sources (bibliographies, research guides, topical encyclopedias, etc.). Use Reference Universe as a guide (it indexes many reference sources, links to UF online subscriptions). Browse the relevant areas of the reference stacks. Browse in the Humanities & Social Sciences Reference area in Library West as well as the reference areas of other branches, depending on your topic.
When browsing reference sources, read several overviews relating to your research question. Issues and themes relating to your topic may be collected together in more general materials (i.e. world history, Third World or developing areas, indigenous peoples, etc.). Use more general search terms if searches yield too few results; narrow terms or filter results if searches yield too many. Check the further readings, references cited and bibliography sections. The preface and, if available, chronology sections can also be valuable starting points. Note alternate, related subject and keyword terms in your list of search terms as you peruse sources to help develop and maintain an effective search strategy for your research.
2) Use these results to target your search for books in the library catalog.
Check the detailed view of any promising records to see subject headings and consider alternative
search terms. Pay close attention to library locations, as
materials may be located in various branch
libraries. See the Just Getting Started pages or Overview of Collections & Services for a brief orientation.
3) You now should have a list of authors who work in your chosen area of research, along with some relevant terms and narrower topics that you'd like to pursue further. Use your developing list of leads to search for relevant scholarly articles in the journal index databases (see the research gateway and project starters for general suggestions). Like Reference Universe, Google Scholar integrates UF Libraries' electronic holdings and provides links back into resources available to UF faculty, students and staff. Continue to apply your developing list of leads iteratively, using new terms again in the research tools that you've already used with only your initial list.
More advanced users may wish to use a few simple tools to assist with library research.
Guides for using many of these tools and more are available as short videos (see box to right).
Student created, one-minute videos on using the UF Libraries.