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This page will provide help with conducting college level research through the UW-Madison Libraries website.

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College Level Research

Research at UW-Madison

  • UW-Madison is a world-class research institution.
  • There are thousands of people on campus who perform original research and create knowledge in a variety of subject areas.
  • As a UW-Madison student, you are part of this culture of research.

What is College Level Research?

  • Rather than stating facts or reporting on what others have said, college level research involves asking new and interesting questions, drawing original conclusions, and creating new knowledge on a topic.
  • You might use sources like Wikipedia or search engines like Google to complete your research assignments. To be successful at UW-Madison, you’ll need to perform much more in-depth research using a variety of information sources.

Example Assignment

You need to think of a scientific question that does not have a definitive answer, come up with a hypothesis, and carefully read the scientific literature in order to compare several studies.
You will be working with a group to complete a meta-analysis of a scientific question that has not been definitively answered.

  • You will need to evaluate five primary research articles and clearly state:
  • A research question and hypothesis
    • The biological rationale that leads you to your hypothesis
    • Examples of uncertainty in the literature
    • A clear, consistent metric
    • One or more x variables, preferably reflecting differences in methods between studies
    • The basis for comparison among studies you chose

The UW-Madison Libraries

As part of a major research library network, the UW-Madison Libraries have access to millions of books, articles, primary sources and other materials that you’ll need for your assignments. You can’t find these materials for free online, but you can access them through the library website.
Librarians are another excellent resource. University librarians are here to help researchers complete their research, and to help undergraduates access the books, articles and other resources they need to complete class assignments.


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Choose or Narrow Your Topic

  • Whenever given a choice, pick a topic that sparks your interest.
  • Search for background information before you commit to a topic. Browsing websites or books can help you learn more about potential topics, like what words to use in future searches.
  • Some topics are too broad for a particular research assignment. As you explore, look for specific subtopics that are interesting to you. For instance, the topic of climate change is too broad, but you can focus on a specific part such as the effect of climate change on hurricane severity or polar bear populations.
  • Remember to adjust or refocus your topic as you research.

Choose the Right Sources

  • Find out how many and what type of sources you need by looking at your assignment, syllabus, or by asking your professor.
  • Determine the types of information you need to support your assignment: Research is found in scholarly articles, books provide topic overviews, and newspapers provide journalists reports on current events and research.

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Choose a Search Type

There are various ways to search for UW licensed resources from the UW-Madison Libraries’ homepage.

Searching for Items in Our Campus Libraries – Library Catalog

The default search is for the library catalog. This catalog includes items we have in our libraries like: books, journals, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, and video games. It also gives access to e-books and online journals. **It is important to note that this catalog search will not find individual articles.

  • You can search the UW System catalog by choosing UW System, instead of UW-Madison, from the drop down menu.
  • You can search for rare items that the UW System does not have, by choosing WorldCat from the dropdown menu. From there you can use the Interlibrary Loan option to request that an item to be sent to one of the UW-Madison Libraries.

Searching Millions of Articles at One Time – Article Search

  • You can search millions of articles at the same time by choosing Articles from the dropdown menu. This may be sufficient for some topics, but if you are completing an in-depth, subject specific search or need many scholarly articles, we suggest selecting Databases from the drop down menu.

Searching for Articles in Databases – Database Library

  • You can find specific databases in which to search for articles by choosing Databases from the dropdown menu. **Some databases include reports, data, images, standards, or other electronic resources as specified by the particular database.
  • To search for a specific database, type the database name into the search box. Click on any individual database title to search that database.
  • If you don’t know which database you’d like to use, try one of the links below the search box:
    • Use the Introductory Databases link, to find one introductory article database to search for each subject or field of study. Using sources from various subjects can lead you to different perspectives on your topic.
    • Use the Browse by Subject/Type link, to first find a subject or field of study that matches your topic or area of research. Each subject link will then lead you to a list of databases with resources related to that subject.

Searching for Articles within Journals – Journals

  • You can find individual journals or articles within journals by selecting the Journals tab from the drop down menu.
  • To find a specific journal, type the exact journal title into the search box.
  • There are a few ways to find a specific article:
  • Type the journal title in the search box and then navigate or search for the specific article from there.
  • If you have the DOI, click on the Citation Search link on the bottom of the search box and then enter the number into the DOI search box.
  • If you have the PMID (PubMed ID), click on Citation Search link on the bottom of the search box and then enter the number into the PMID Search box.

Which Search is Right for You?


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