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UMass Amherst Libraries

Information and Computer Sciences

Document Your Research

Use a Research Log to document the choices you make during your research process. A Research Log can be as simple or complex as you need it to be, but it should collect the following basic information, to help you track and think critically about your research.  

  • Your research question and keywords
  • The databases that you searched
  • Criteria used to refine your search
  • The sources you've identified and their characteristics

You can also use this tool to keep notes on your progress. Write about what's been successful, what's frustrated you, or take notes about what you're reading. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, elaborate, or even academic -- just a way to keep a log of your thoughts and what you've found.

Research Question to Research Strategy

Moving from a research question to an effective search strategy requires that you: 

  1. break your research question down into its core concepts,
  2. identify alternative keywords for those concepts,
  3. combine your keywords with boolean connectors to create a strategy
  4. iterate different combinations of keywords and concepts until you find a search method that returns relevant results! 

For example:

Research Question to Search Strategy

Modified from Research Methods in Gerontology LibGuide, Georgia State University Library. 

Choose an Appropriate Database

Plug your search strategy into one of the Library databases that indexes topically-related content. All of the resources listed below can be accessed through the Libraries' website.

Not sure how to begin? Check out this video for a quick primer on how to choose a database

The Libraries pay for subscriptions to many journals and databases, which gives you access to many resources that are otherwise behind a paywall for folks without access to a major research library. When you start your research with the Library, you are also starting in the right place, which saves you time!


Multidisciplinary and Computer Science-focused databases are excellent sources of articles to support your assignment. Try these databases first. 

Multidisciplinary:

  • Academic Search Premier
    ★ Great starting point!  Includes a variety of different resource types across disciplines, including newspapers, trade magazines, popular magazines, and videos, as well as academic peer-reviewed scholarship. Indexes 160 publications in Computer Science. 
  • Web of Science
    Index to peer-reviewed articles across disciplines, including 120 publications and proceedings in Computer Science.

Computer Science:

  • Association for Computing Machinery Digital Library (ACM Digital Library)
    ★ One of the main venues for current research in Computer Science ★ Includes both the ACM Full Text Collection (all association-published books, peer-reviewed journals, and conference proceedings) and the ACM Guide to Computing Literature.
  • IEEE Xplore
    From the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, with access to publications and conference proceedings in computer science, electrical engineering, and electronics.
  • Engineering Village
    Comprehensive engineering database, includes articles and proceedings in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and more.
  • ArXiv
    Open access eprints in Physics, Math, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and more.

For this Social Issues class, if you want to explore different perspectives on a topic in computer science, the following discipline specific databases may be useful:

Business:

  • Business Source Complete
    Peer-reviewed journals, trade journals, and business magazines, including the Harvard Business Review.  

Communication:

  • Communication and Mass Media Complete
    Communication scholarly journals and trade journals, plus articles on communication topics from related disciplines, 1915-present.
  • ComAbstracts
    Abstracts of articles and books on communication theory, interpersonal communication, mass communication, advertising and marketing, broadcasting, journalism, public opinion, and public relations. Coverage varies - earliest is 1915-present.

Current events:

  • Science Daily - Computers & Math Section
    ★ A great resource to explore if you are still trying to define a research topic! ★ Current events in computer science. Will often point you to the original paper or source of information. 

Education:

  • ERIC (Education Resource Information Center)
    Education journal articles (EJ references) and ERIC documents (ED references), 1967-present.

Environmental Science:

  • GreenFile
    Scholarly, government, and general-interest articles on climate change, renewable energy, green building, sustainable agriculture, green building, pollution, recycling, education, law, health, and technology. Covers 1973-current.

Legislation and Public Policy:

Philosophy and Ethics:

  • PhilPapers
    Comprehensive index of research in philosophy, including an open access archive. The largest bibliographic index of the field. 

Psychology/Public Health:

  • PsychINFO
    Published by the American Psychological Association (APA), PsycINFO is the largest resource devoted to peer-reviewed journal literature in psychology, behavioral science and mental health - 2,500 journal titles indexed - 2.8 million records - 1887 to present.

Reference (background information):

Know Your Resource Types

Information will come to you in a variety of formats. Different types of resources have different authority and credibility cues and different purposes and uses. It is important to know the differences between resource types so that you can make good decisions about which ones to trust and use in your own work.

Resource Table

Other Tools to Help You Manage Your Work

Reference managers    Portfolio builders    Concept mapping     Project management    Secure storage   
RefWorks GitHub bubbl.us Trello Box @ UMass
Zotero Website @ UMass coggle.it Asana
Mendeley Blogs @ UMass Mindomo